Dileesh Pothan on his latest movie O Baby: ‘No matter how civilised humanity may perceive itself to be…’ (2024)

The mention of Dileesh Pothan’s name has become indispensable when discussing the Malayalam film industry. Regarded as one of the industry’s most esteemed and gifted filmmakers, Pothan’s directorial ventures — Maheshinte Prathikaaram (2016), Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum (2017), and Joji (2021) — resonate deeply within the hearts of cinephiles. These movies not only reflect the authentic realities of Kerala but also exemplify exceptional cinematic quality. They have had a profound impact on aspiring filmmakers, inspiring them to create projects of similar standards. Pothan’s contributions have also significantly fortified the contemporary filmmaking scene in Kerala, shaping a new era of artistic expression.

Pothan’s impact goes beyond his directorial achievements. He has also become a highly sought-after actor in the Malayalam industry, consistently taking on significant roles in numerous films. In 2022 alone, he graced the screen in six movies. His acting prowess was similarly evident in 2018, where he featured in 15 films, and in 2019, with appearances in 13 movies. Such a staggering workload positions Pothan as one of the busiest and most dedicated performers in the industry today.

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O Baby’s world

Now, the multi-talented Pothan has returned to the screen with his latest acting endeavour, titled O Baby, directed by renowned screenwriter Ranjan Pramod. The film made its theatrical debut on June 9. Providing indianexpress.com with an exclusive glimpse into the film’s universe, Pothan says: “I play the titular character Baby in this film. He is a go-with-the-flow person who lives within his own small world, guided by his own perceptions. As his children grow up, his understanding of life and the world begins to transform, and he gradually adjusts his viewpoints. The story unfolds in a hilly region, neighbouring a forest, and focuses on the lives of the residents there. This film falls under the drama genre.”

According to the movie’s trailer, viewers can anticipate a thrilling journey that centres around the lives of two young adults, whose romantic relationship is met with opposition from their families, possibly due to differences in their respective communities, either caste or religion. The promo also shows the elderly characters in the film resorting to wielding weapons to ensure their victory in this ‘battle’.

‘If a topic is to be addressed, it should be at any cost’

While instances of violence stemming from caste (and religion) persist, particularly in matters of love and marriage, O Baby is anticipated to shed light on a narrative that explores this subject matter. “I hold the belief that there should be no apprehension in openly discussing, particularly through the medium of movies, a prevalent subject in our society, even if it is a sensitive issue. If a topic is to be addressed, it should be at any cost. It is unfair to position caste, class, or religion as barriers to anything, particularly love, and our film discusses that too.”

Pothan’s previous directorial venture, Joji, delved deep into the profound exploration of how people resort to violence as a means to solve the challenges they face, a theme that remains relevant even in today’s world. Like Joji, O Baby also addresses this issue, emphasising the continued presence of such behaviour in society. “No matter how advanced or civilised humanity may perceive itself to be, the tendency still lingers. Emotions persist as the driving factor. In my view, it is in moments of weakness that people resort to violence and arm themselves with weapons. Even in today’s age, this aspect remains present within our society, despite our collective efforts to progress beyond it,” he observes.

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Apart from Pothan’s presence, another captivating element of O Baby is its director, Ranjan Pramod, renowned for his successful screenwriting in hit films such as Meesa Madhavan, Manassinakkare, Achuvinte Amma, Naran, and Ennum Eppozhum. O Baby serves as Ranjan’s fourth directorial project, and it’s worth noting that Pothan had previously collaborated with him on Ranjan’s prior directorial endeavour, Rakshadhikari Baiju Oppu.

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‘Rakshadhikari Baiju Oppu was a pivotal film in my acting career’

“Ever since he offered me a role in this film, I have been filled with anticipation and excitement. All of his previous movies have been a great source of inspiration for me. It was during the production of Rakshadhikari Baiju Oppu that I had the opportunity to closely observe and comprehend his approach to filmmaking for the first time. Despite having acted in numerous films before that, I consider Rakshadhikari Baiju Oppu as a pivotal film in my acting career. Although my role in the film was relatively minor, it bestowed upon me a profound sense of fulfilment. The experience felt truly magical. It was after my involvement in Rakshadhikari Baiju Oppu that I began approaching acting with greater dedication and seriousness. The impact of that particular film on me was immense, propelling me to fully commit myself to the craft of acting thereafter,” Dileesh Pothan says.

Dileesh Pothan on his latest movie O Baby: ‘No matter how civilised humanity may perceive itself to be…’ (2) A poster of Ranjan Pramod’s O Baby. (Image: Dileesh Pothan/Facebook)

“Having a close bond with him, I once eagerly asked him during one of our conversations why he hadn’t taken up any film projects after Rakshadhikari Baiju Oppu. My inquiry stemmed from the perspective of a curious audience member. ‘Why are you taking such a lengthy break? We are all eagerly anticipating your next movies,’ I told him. That conversation gradually evolved and eventually paved the way for the birth of O Baby,” Pothan happily recalls.

‘I prefer to back quality projects’

In addition to playing the central character in O Baby, Pothan has also taken on the role of its co-producer. Since 2019, Pothan has bankrolled four films: Kumbalangi Nights, Joji, Palthu Janwar, and Thankam. These films achieved tremendous success both commercially and critically. When asked if it was a deliberate decision to prioritise substantial content over purely commercial films, Pothan laughed and replied, “I have no objections to my films performing well commercially.”

“When I consider taking on a film, my main criteria is whether it’s a project worth supporting wholeheartedly. Therefore, I gravitate towards working on movies that possess depth and substance. From a production standpoint, we do take commercial elements into account. However, rather than being involved in a multitude of films, I prefer to back quality projects. Not every film will achieve success, of course. Nevertheless, our motto is to exert maximum effort and deliver high-quality movies that audiences can rely on,” he adds.

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Dileesh Pothan on his latest movie O Baby: ‘No matter how civilised humanity may perceive itself to be…’ (3) Dileesh Pothan on the sets of O Baby. (Image: Dileesh Pothan/Facebook)

‘Wearing the hat of a filmmaker is what truly exhilarates me’

When asked by indianexpress.com if he truly enjoys acting a lot, given the number of films he appears in each year, Dileesh Pothan responds, “It is because acting is comparatively easier and effortless that the number is high. I take at least one to two years to complete a directorial venture. On the other hand, acting in a film is a matter of just a few days. ”

“Wearing the hat of a filmmaker is what truly exhilarates me. While acting may not provide me with the same level of excitement as directing a movie does, the thrill of collaborating with different filmmakers is extraordinary. When working alongside these directors, I assume the role of their assistant, diligently observing and grasping their unique approaches. As a filmmaker myself, this grants me the privilege of witnessing the distinctive visions and execution styles of multiple directors. I view acting as an opportunity to learn and grow, expanding my understanding of the craft through these valuable experiences.”

“Consequently, engaging in acting roles between my directorial endeavours rejuvenates me. Immersing myself in diverse subjects, characters, and film sets as an actor offers a refreshing experience. It allows me to avoid immediately jumping into a new directorial venture while still carrying the hangover of the previous one. This is why I seize the intervals between two directorial projects to embrace acting opportunities,” Pothan states.

Dileesh Pothan on his latest movie O Baby: ‘No matter how civilised humanity may perceive itself to be…’ (2024)

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