Exploring Munnariv - Malayalam’s first crowdfunded micro-budget fiction feature film shot entirely on an iPhone

Munnariv Poster
Munnariv Movie Poster

Going down the rabbit hole i.e., youtube I stumbled upon a movie called ‘Munnariv (Foreknowledge)’. Science fiction is my cup of tea but the cast and the crew felt new. Boredom encouraged me to watch this movie. Now I wonder why I felt so? I still remember back in 2014 after watching the movie, Oralpokkam by Sanal Kumar Sashidharan I announced to the world that I am over with this same fear that questioned Munnariv. But am I?

What is Munnariv?

Behind the scenes of Munnariv
Behind the scenes of Munnariv

Munnariv in Malayalam translates to 'Prior knowledge.' As the name suggests this is a story about the future. Munnariv is Malayalam’s first crowdfunded micro-budget fiction feature film, shot entirely on an iPhone. Arun, a work-from-home Malayali IT Engineer is the main lead of the movie. Despite the lack of backgrounds in the movie, Arun manages to showcase the world around him. And one day a voice claiming to be his daughter contacts him on behalf of the project he is working on. And then suddenly the ship sails to uncharted territories. I mean time-travel, government killing special children and so on.

At first, I felt Arun be schizophrenic and Purvi to be his imagination. And as I recall, Arun felt the same, that he met a physiatrist for the same. Purvi and the horrors she faced sure made me sorry for her. And she reminds me of Yeonmi Park. Aayushi is another character that I felt I knew but couldn't just point her out because she is the friend we all have.

Munnariv also criticizes the political and social cultures in India. It hits the right spot. It warns us about the risk in our digitalization policy, Remember the Reuters report on this issue? You can see a film version of this. The funniest part of all this is the corporate manager who doesn't seem to notice the sudden interest of their software in China, Russia and UAE.

So Much for So Little


Munnariv
communicates to us in fewer spaces and with a limited cast. As I mentioned, Earlier this is a crowdfunded movie with a strict budget. But this has not stopped them in telling their tale. They used familiar spaces. And at times they rewrote the script to fit the schedule. I wondered whether this was a planned move. Ashik Kumar Satheesh, the director and the writer of Munnariv, replied:

We have tried to make Munnariv in as little space and time as possible because that was what the budget would allow us to do. We made use of the locations that we had access to, like my parent's house the nearby shops, temples and so on. These were available for free to us and very close by, that again reduced travelling expenses.

We also had to tell the story in as little time as was possible, as more shoot days would require more money. Necessity being the mother of invention, we rewrote the script in order to be able to make it happen in the places we had, with the money we had. So yes, telling the whole story in minimal spaces and minimal time was a planned move that was necessitated by the situation.

Why Youtube?

Munnariv Shooting Scenes
Munnariv Shooting Scenes

Munnariv
is streaming for free on YouTube but had not received that attention that it deserves. For the content and the storyline, it should have been a streaming success by now.

One comment on youtube struck my attention: 
"Awesome movie... Definitely deserves a wider audience and much more appreciation."
This raised so many questions in me and who else to ask this other than the director himself, so he replied:

We, of course, hoped that the film would hit the theatres, if not at least Amazon Prime or Netflix. As I was telling before, I hoped to make a film and learn making my own mistakes. One was about the importance of marketing and selling a film. What I learned is that if you want to get a film into theatres, or onto an OTT platform, you need to have one of two things, contacts with the industry or recognizable faces in the film. We did not have either. Or you have to be so lucky that one of this finds its way to you.

Making the film happen in itself, while writing, directing, and producing was a huge challenge. By the time we were finished making it, I had already exhausted my fortitude. Though I tried, my knowledge in marketing a film was almost zero. So I could not push it as well as I hoped I would. One option left was to release it on YouTube and be done with it. That was what we choose. Thankfully people like you now came across the film, see the talent and work behind it, and hopefully finds inspiration to chase your dreams as well. I believe it will attract even more people in the coming years.

About Ashik Kumar Satheesh

Ashik Kumar Satheesh
Ashik Kumar Satheesh

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” — Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist.
From travelogues to books, Ashik has illustrated his love for language from an earlier age. Though destiny has carved his name into Arts, Ashik chose engineering because of the dilemma that prevailed. He never let down his passion for photography. But his fate turned him back to the direction where it should have headed. While working at TCS he improved his writing skill and developed other skills like teaching, creating posters and so on.

At 25 he decided to explore India, Ashik said 
"Travelling seemed the right thing I needed, to push me out on a limb, into a zone that I was not comfortable with, to give myself a jolt from the safety I had been living for so many years. That's why I went travelling." 
His journey guided him to his future. He converted his journey into a travelogue which reached wider audiences than he expected. Which gave him the confidence to follow his passion.

He has also welcomed criticism from others, they discouraged him of what he had created and that has made him sad. But for a creator who learns from his mistakes, he thanked all those who criticized him and for communicating their perspective towards the movie.

He does have a message for the ones who are depressed: 
"I was feeling low because I had lost sight of how far I had already come. I let other people's opinion that Munnariv was not that good, dictate what I believed in. I lost faith in my skill and the film. I forgot I was making mistakes to learn (I will be writing about this in a couple of days myself). I had read that one should not let other people's opinion affect you. I knew that intellectually, but it took me over a year to even figure out that that was what I was doing.

That was why I was feeling low. It might not be anyone else's. So I cannot advise anyone on how to overcome them feeling down, but suggest that they seek professional help."

Books by Ashik Kumar Satheesh:

Millennial Midas: The Girl With The Magic

The Indian Indie Film: An Aspiring Filmmaker's Definite Guide to Debuting Film

Conclusion:

Malayalam Sci-Fi films are really rare and trust me this communicates to the right audience. Do leave a comment once you have seen the movie and let me know how you feel about this movie.

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