Adarsh Sukumaran and Paulson Skaria talk about scripting ‘Kaathal – The Core’

The crowd favourite of International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) 2022 was Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Mammootty-starrer Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam. Among the delegates who thronged the theatres to watch the movie was Adarsh Sukumaran and Paulson Skaria.

Little did the scriptwriter duo know that their movie, Kaathal-The Core, the Mammootty-Jyothika starrer directed by Jeo Baby, would be welcomed the same way at the next edition of the IFFK. “We had come to IFFK last year after the shoot of Kaathal…. Seeing the crowd for Nanpakal… we wondered if we would be able to bring Kaathal… to the next IFFK. It was a wonderful moment when that dream was fulfilled this year and all shows were jam-packed,” says Adarsh.

Paulson adds, “We didn’t expect the film to be welcomed so warmly especially since it is still running in cinemas. We knew that the film would be discussed but not to this extent. Even Jeo chettan (Jeo Baby) did not expect this response.”

Paulson Skaria (left) and Adarsh Sukumaran
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Kaathal… is the story of Mathew Devassy (Mammootty), a retired bank manager, who is all set to contest a local panchayat election when his wife of 20 years, Omana (Jyothika), files for divorce stating that her husband is in a relationship with a man, Thankan (Sudhi Kozhikode), who runs a driving school. Mathew, father to a teenager, is in denial but manages to come out towards the end.

Adarsh, 29, and Paulson, 27, debuted as scenarists with the surprise hit of the year, Neymar, a breezy story of an indie dog. Adarsh is also the co-writer of the blockbuster of the year,RDX, with Shabas Rasheed. In a chat with MetroPlus, the duo talks about finding their way in Malayalam cinema, the success of Kaathal… and more.

The duo says that it was their love for cinema that brought them together. “We have been friends for over 10 years now. Although we didn’t study together (Paulson is an engineer, while Adarsh is a post graduate in television journalism) our colleges were on the same campus (Mar Athanious College, Kothamangalam). Our common friend Devadath Shaji (co-writer of Bheeshma Parvam) used to make short films and we used to work in it. That’s how we met,” says Paulson.

They used to write stories and often shared them with each other. “After a point, when it became a question of surviving in the industry, we decided to write together. Kaathal… was our first joint script,” he adds.

Their original plan was to write the story about two thugs and their friendship. “We remembered this scene in Vettayadu Vilayaadu in which Kamal Hassan’s character asks two villains if they were homosexuals! It so happened that while preparing for my civil service exams I came across several articles on revocation of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (law that criminalises same-sex relations). Eventually, we decided to write the story of a family,” says Paulson.

They did not approach Jeo Baby initially because he usually direct his own scripts. But no one else was ready to take up the project. “We decided to give it a try with Jeo chettan as advised by a friend. We met him in October 2021. He took us on board, reworked the script with us. It his suggestion to have Mammookka [Mammootty]. It was Mammookka’s idea to cast Jyothika ma’am as Omana. Thus everything fell in place,” Adarsh says.

The writers say they learnt more about the subject as they wrote. “We read books, met people from the community, and that opened a whole new world to us,” Paulson says. Adarsh adds: ”We followed debates and discussions about the topic. We also consulted legal experts, especially with regard to points regarding the subject. We had heard about a similar court case while writing the script but couldn’t get the details.”

The duo admits that working with Jeo has been a learning experience because his perspectives influenced them as he knew more about the subject and how to handle it. “That helped us to break our conditioning about the subject. Now when the silences in the film are getting celebrated, the credit should go to the director. Our script had more conversations,” Paulson points out. They also appreciate the fact that Jeo involved them in every aspect of the movie, including designing the poster and title.

Discussions aplenty

The film has left the field wide open for discussions about homosexuality and the writers are excited about it. “We were overwhelmed by some of the comments and observations posted on social media handles. Many real-life stories are now in the open because of this film. We are happy that the film has worked with families as well, although we didn’t make any deliberate attempts to bring the family audience to the theatres,” Paulson comments. They are also pleased with the fact their families have loved the movie.

The film is another proof for how Mammootty is reinventing himself as an actor, they say. “We feel that he is some 10 years ahead of us, which probably comes from his experience, his reading and his interaction with others. He came up with several important suggestions that elevated some of the scenes,” Adarsh observes. Paulson adds, “He has put in subtle nuances in his scenes, which most of us in the crew noticed when we rewatched the movie.”

(From left) Adarsh Sukumaran, Paulson Skaria, Jeo Baby and Mammootty on the set of Kaathal - The Core

(From left) Adarsh Sukumaran, Paulson Skaria, Jeo Baby and Mammootty on the set of Kaathal – The Core
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

While Paulson picks Mathew’s interaction with his daughter in college as his favourite scene, Adarsh chooses the multi-shot sequence showing Mathew’s emotional interaction with his father, Omana’s reaction from the other room and her scene with Mathew that follows.

Hits in their kitty

Their first project to release was Neymar directed by Sudhi Madisson. “The project came to us through our friend, Justin Mathew (co-writer of Minnal Murali). We didn’t have to struggle much as there was already a director and production house. We had to crack the script by breaking the cliches on the subject of human-animal bond,” Paulson says.

The hit parade continued for Adarsh with RDX, the action-packed family drama. “Nahas (Nahas Hidayath, director of RDX), approached me with a real-life story and we (he and co-writer Shabas) had to come up with a script around that,” he says.

Facing the camera

Kaathal… is Adarsh’s 12th film as an actor and marked Paulson’s debut before the camera. Adarsh played a politician, while Paulson was cast as the pragmatic priest, Fr Jomon. “I debuted in Amal Neerad’s Varathan and am now acting with Mammookka in Turbo. I enjoy that. I have been a mimicry artiste as well and have done shows on Malayalam channels,” Adarsh says. “I felt that it is fairly easy to act if you are the writer as well!” Paulson says.

Paulson is already writing a project for Basil Joseph, while Adarsh has completed a script with another friend, Able Baby.

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