Nahas Hidhayath has had the best Onam of his life. The debut director is on a high with his film, RDX: Robert Dony Xavier, playing to full houses across Kerala and outside the State. “When the audience burst into applause after the first day first show, it was a dream-come-true experience. My struggles became insignificant at that moment,” says Nahas, who had to shelve his first film, Aaravam, after a few days of shooting.
RDX, an action-packed entertainer with tropes to attract the family audience, arrived at theatres as an underdog, pitted against two star-driven releases – Dulquer Salmaan’s King of Kotha and Nivin Pauly’s Ramachandra Boss & Co. The film, bankrolled by Sophia Paul, and starring young guns Shane Nigam, Antony Varghese and Neeraj Madhav has clearly raced past the two biggies.
The story revolves around Robert (Shane), his elder sibling, Dony (Antony) and their friend, Xavier (Neeraj), all trained in martial arts. They have left behind their dark past to lead a peaceful life. But their lives take a turn when a bunch of criminals enter their lives.
Nahas says that there were pre-release jitters because the film was at the receiving end of cyber attacks and trolls ever since the posters, songs and trailer were released. “There was so much negativity that I was worried. But Ma’am [Sophia Paul] was unruffled by it. She said that our film would get its audience,” says Nahas.
The film ran into a controversy with reports about Shane complaining about not getting enough importance in the movie and his involvement in editing. “It happened because of some miscommunication and misunderstanding. It was blown out of proportion. I felt bad for Shane when there were reports about him using drugs and his family harassing me. None of it is true,” Nahas stresses.
Where it started
Nahas had moved to Kochi from his home at Kanjirappally in Kottayam district, after graduation. “I didn’t have the courage to tell my orthodox family that I was trying to get into films. So I lied to them that I was doing a six-month course after which I would get a job. In the meantime, I was busy meeting directors while doing a small-time job to make ends meet.”
An interaction with Ganesh Raj [who went on to direct Aanandam and Pookkalam] was the turning point. “He was working with Vineeth Sreenivasan at that time. Thanks to him, I got a chance to meet Basil Joseph. But the problem was that I had not directed even a short film till then. So when chettan [Basil] asked me about that, I was stumped. I made a short within four days, with the support of my employer and friends. Basil chettan was impressed and took me in as an assistant in Godha. Otherwise, my film school has been YouTube.”
Then came Aaravam, his debut film with Antony in the lead, which was shelved after eight days of shoot, due to the pandemic and lockdown restrictions. “I was heartbroken because I must have approached over 20 producers for the project,” he adds.
Nevertheless, life took a new turn when two of his short films, 14 Days of Love and Colour Padam, went viral on social media in 2021. “Eventually I got the chance to take my story to Sophia Ma’am. It was a big-budget movie featuring a well-known face. However, she was not convinced about the viability of the project and asked me if I had another story. That was RDX. It is a fictionalised version of an incident that happened in my college. My friends Shabas Rasheed and Adarsh Sukumaran came on board as scriptwriters. Shabas was in Aaravam’s direction team, while Adarsh had auditioned for a role.”
As a fan of action movies, Nahas wanted standout action sequences in RDX by Anbariv — twins Anbumani and Arivumani. The duo’s filmography includes KGF, Kaithi, Sarpatta Parambarai and Vikram.
“Our producer was in shock because their budget is equal to, or more than, the budget of a Malayalam film! But I told her that I was willing to compromise on any aspect of the film except for the stunt masters. When it comes to executing action, we refer to the Hindi, Tamil or Telugu industries. I did not want to do that in RDX. Anbariv understood my vision and the emotions needed for each scene.”
Anbariv – twin brothers Anbumani and Arivumani – started their career as stunt masters in Malayalam, with Amal Neerad’s Bachelor Party.
They won the National Film Award for Best Stunt Choreographer for the Kannada film K.G.F: Chapter 1.
Their upcoming big projects include Vijay’s Leo, Prabhas’ Salaar and Project K, which also stars Kamal Haasan and Amitabh Bachchan.
The film has six well-executed fight sequences that have come in for praise. “I knew that getting young actors to do action would be loved by the audience. Also, when there is a reason for the fight, people will accept it. The actors were made to do different styles of action (for example, Neeraj is a nunchuck master) and that worked big time. They trained hard for it.”
Veteran actor-martial artist Babu Antony plays a key role, albeit a small one. “It was the producer’s idea to have him. I was reluctant to approach him because he had just one fight scene in the movie. But he was okay with it. It was overwhelming to see how the theatre erupted with joy in that scene. Babu chettan is also happy because now his family knows the popularity he enjoyed for his action roles once upon a time.”
Nahas is pleased that the villains of RDX, most of them new faces, are also being talked about. “If the hero has to be celebrated, the villain has to be strong. Since I wanted to give something new for the audience I went for faces that are not familiar for the audience. All of them are friends waiting for a break in the industry. Vishnu Agasthya, the main antagonist [Paulson], is an amazing artist who was desperate for a breakout role. All his pent-up frustration came out in his performance.”
Nahas adds that the film’s success has a lot to do with his team. “Be it music (Sam CS), editing (Chaman Chakko), camera (Alex J Pulickal) or costumes (Dhanya Balakrishnan), each of them gave their best. They all wanted the film to do well.”
RDX is running in theatres.