In the realm of Malayalam cinema, it’s uncommon for producers to consistently deliver films of exceptional quality. Even though moviegoers might recognise different producers and production companies, their choice to watch a film is rarely influenced by the firm backing it.
However, Sophia Paul is a remarkable exception in the Malayalam industry’s extensive list of producers. Despite having bankrolled only five films so far, Sophia Paul and her production company, Weekend Blockbusters, have become synonymous with excellence, thanks to their dedicated pursuit of outstanding movies.
Now, as she readies herself for the release of her upcoming endeavour, debutant Nahas Hidayath’s RDX: Robert Dony Xavier, there are understandably high expectations surrounding the film, especially since it’s her first production venture after Basil Joseph’s superhero flick Minnal Murali (2021), which gained substantial acclaim both domestically and internationally.
But, Sophia remains as self-assured as ever in her ability to deliver yet another significant cinematic achievement.
In an exclusive conversation with The Indian Express, Sophia confidently stated that RDX, featuring Shane Nigam, Antony Varghese (Pepe), Neeraj Madhav, and Mahima Nambiar in lead roles, will be an Onam treat for viewers. The movie is set to release in theatres on August 25, in direct competition with two other major projects: Dulquer Salmaan’s King of Kotha and Nivin Pauly’s Ramachandra Boss and Co.
‘RDX is a family entertainer’
Upon being questioned about her impressions after viewing the final cut of RDX, Sophia, in the capacity of an ordinary moviegoer, expressed her thorough enjoyment of the film. She said she particularly relished it due to its appeal as a family entertainer.
“Though it’s difficult for me to detach completely and watch the movie afresh as another person, I thoroughly enjoyed it as a family entertainer, which it is supposed to be. The main reason I was keen on this project was that it’s been a while since we had an action-packed, multi-actor, family entertainer with choreographed songs. RDX is all of that. And after watching the final edit, I am completely happy with the way the movie has shaped up. I’m sure it will be an Onam treat for the audience,” she tells The Indian Express.
Elaborating on her decision to take on RDX, Sophia explains, “We receive numerous stories and pitches daily, and we end up listening to only a select few from them. When I say ‘a select few’, that includes a lot of stories and scripts. The reality is that we might come across a project after listening to scores of them. Nahas Hidayath had actually approached us for a different project, one that would have taken a longer time to come to fruition. Then Nahas narrated the basic story of RDX to my son Cedin. He found it interesting and suggested that I listen to it too. It instantly caught my attention. After Minnal Murali (which didn’t have a theatrical release), I wanted to produce an action film for theatres. And RDX was the very next script we liked after listening to a lot of screenplays, and it just happened to be an action film too.”
On Shane Nigam controversy
From the moment it was announced, RDX has generated significant excitement, particularly due to its impressive cast. However, earlier this year, the film became embroiled in controversy when several film organisations chose not to collaborate with actor Shane Nigam any longer, reportedly due to complaints from multiple producers.
During that period, the former president of the Kerala Film Producers’ Association (KFPA), M Renjith, stated that Shane insisted on having more prominence in RDX and wanted the movie to be edited mid-production. Renjith mentioned that Shane even went so far as to threaten not to act in the movie.
Emphasising how the issues were effectively resolved, Sophia says: “There were some misunderstandings during the shoot that got amicably resolved with the help of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (A.M.M.A) and the Producers’ Association. At the end of the day, the movie is bigger than all of that. It’s a collaboration, and everybody has to work together towards its success. I am happy that the team has come together and put great effort into promoting RDX.”
‘RDX will be a milestone movie in Shane Nigam’s career’
When asked about her thoughts on Shane Nigam, both as an actor and as a person, Sophia mentions, “Shane is an exceptional actor, and RDX will showcase another unexplored dimension of him as a performer. He is hardworking and has a long successful career ahead of him. I am sure he processed the unfortunate experiences positively and has grown as a person and an actor. I am confident that RDX will be a milestone movie in his career.”
Commencing her journey by co-producing the blockbuster Malayalam film Bangalore Days (2014), which garnered attention across India and is currently being remade in Hindi as Yaariyan 2, Sophia Paul transitioned into an independent producer by backing Dr Biju’s critically acclaimed Kaadu Pookkunna Neram (2016). The movie not only graced esteemed international film festivals but also clinched numerous accolades, including at the Kerala State Film Awards in 2016, apart from bagging a National Award.
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Taking a bold step forward, Weekend Blockbusters achieved a significant milestone by producing the Mohanlal-starrer Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol (2017), which emerged as a significant box-office hit. The film also earned Mohanlal the National Film Award – Special Jury Award. While their subsequent project, Padayottam (2018), didn’t meet anticipated success, it gradually garnered a cult status over time.
Since the beginning of her career, Sophia Paul has consistently collaborated with emerging talents, particularly when it comes to lead actors and, even more so, directors. While Bangalore Days marked Anjali Menon’s second directorial, Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol was the second filmmaking venture for cinematographer-turned-director Jibu Jacob. Padayottam served as Rafeek Ibrahim’s directorial debut, Minnal Murali was Basil’s third endeavour, and RDX stands as Nahas’ first.
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When questioned about whether this approach is intentional, Sophia responds: “The movie business is too complex to plan ahead with a specific agenda or pattern. Working with newcomers or fairly new directors and actors is not a conscious choice. It’s all related to the kind of scripts that come my way and the kind of actors that suit those scripts. Definitely, I have plans to work with other experienced actors and directors. There are projects that are being discussed and planned. It’s a matter of time when they will all fall into place.”
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