The co-writer of Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela, George Kora débuts as director with the digital release, Thirike
The trailer of Thirike promises a ‘heart-in-the-right-place' kind of film; it follows the story of the bond between two brothers, one of whom is a person with Down syndrome. Written and co-directed by George Kora, who earlier co-wrote Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela, the film releases on Neestream on February 26. “Had I not found Gopi (Gopi Krishnan), the film wouldn't have been made,” says George.
Having written the script four years ago, George didn't pursue it as he wasn't sure of finding an actor with Down syndrome, like Gopi. Gopi plays Ismu, the elder brother to George's Thoma. George adds that he discovered Gopi with the help of Dr Shaji Thomas John of Baby Memorial Hospital, Kozhikode.
.“I asked Dr. Shaji if he could recommend someone for the role. He told me ‘I mentor 10,000-odd persons with Down syndrome. Tell me the story.' He said if anyone could do the role, it was this person and that I could make the film. I was shocked — that was a one in 10,000 shot that my film would get made,” he says.
A couple of days later Dr. Shaji shared a few Tik-Tok videos with him. “They were videos of Gopi, I watched them over and over. We had found our guy.” A phone call to Gopi's parents later, the family met George in Kochi.
The duo hit it off immediately. “It is destiny, his greatest wish is to be in cinema. He is a complete cinephile, his life revolves around cinema,” George says of the 22 year-old.
Thirike is possibly the first Malayalam film to feature an actor with Down syndrome in a lead role. George calls the film a “manifestation of my wish for a brother”; he doesn't have one. Thirike was to have released last year.
A few prominent OTT platforms that the filmmaker approached didn't show interest because there was no ‘big name' in the cast. Neestream, which gained prominence with the release of The Great Indian Kitchen, then picked it up.
George calls Thirike a celebration of people with Down syndrome, of seeing them for what they are without the filter of sympathy. “I was very sure about it when I wrote the screenplay. Let's celebrate them. They are fascinating, pure people. With all the pros of a child and none of the cons of adults,” he remarks.
A series of acting workshops was held to prepare Gopi for his role. Says George, “He has a fascinating toolkit; he was always in the moment and not thinking of other things. He has the inherent qualities to be an actor. I tweaked the character around Gopi's style and rhythm because his timing with humour is great. His mother is his shadow, she schooled him on the dialogues and everything else.”
George's co-director on the project is Sam Xavier. “I have known Sam since college. With him there, I could disconnect with what was happening behind the camera. As a writer, I wrote closer home for Thoma while exploring the character. There is no hero turn, just an honest telling.” Actor Shanti Krishna, who was the lead in Njandukalude…, appears in a prominent role in Thirike as well. He confesses to having a soft corner for her. “She was the heroine in my first film, she is so graceful; she is underutilised as an actor,” he adds.