The comedy series ‘Pandaraparambil House at 801’ zooms in on a friendly neighbourhood Malayali family in a cosmopolitan city

Pandaraparambil House at 801 is all about your friendly neighbourhood Malayali family in a cosmopolitan city. The adventures and misadventures of the Delhi-based family of PP Joseph’s, is bound to resonate with Malayalis, especially with those living outside Kerala. Currently being telecast on ManoramaMax, the eight-episode sitcom, has been scripted and directed by actor-scenarist Archana Kavi.

When Archana wanted to try her hand at direction, she decided to chose a theme that would evoke laughter. “I see myself as a goofy person and so, I did not want to do something serious at this point. I wanted a light-hearted subject that would strike a chord with viewers. We are all going through a tough time and so, I wanted to give viewers a comedy,” says Archana, speaking over phone from Delhi.

We get up and close with Joseph, Mariamma and their children, Justin and Sini, as they entertain unexpected visitors from Kerala.

A scene from Pandaraparambil House at 801, a web series that has been scripted and directed by Archana Kavi  | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Once she finished the script, Delhi-based Archana held auditions to select her lead actors. She went back to her school, St Xaviers, Delhi, to rope in a few students into her team. “Creatively, whatever I am today is because of my school and so I wanted to give back in some way. The confidence to explore and do different things come from the exposure I got from my school,” she says.

The principal backed Archana and she selected a group of students to act and help her with the shooting. The experience, says Archana, was like revisiting her childhood. “It was interesting to have a bunch of students on the sets. Both Justin and Sini, who act as the Joseph’s teenaged children, are students of St Xaviers.”

All the actors are freshers and once the auditions were completed, some of the cast and crew flew in from Kerala, while the entire team stayed in Delhi until the shooting was over. “There was a freshness in their acting as they were all newcomers. I could empathise with them because when I made my début in films with Lal Jose’s Neelathamara, I was completely clueless about filmmaking. But their energy and enthusiasm was contagious,” she says.

A scene from Pandaraparambil House at 801, a web series on Manorama Max that has been scripted and directed by Archana Kavi  | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Archana, also a YouTuber, has written two series, Toofan Mail and Meenaviyal, which were well-received by viewers. While Toofan Mail was more like a vlog, Meenaviyal was about two siblings. She wrote and acted in the series. “However, after I finished writing Pandaraparambil…, I felt I had to direct it since I could relate it so well. I doubted if anyone else could have done justice to it,” she adds.

Shot completely in Delhi at the end of 2019 and early 2020 when the city was experiencing one of its coldest winters, Archana asserts that she was lucky that the shooting was completed just before the nationwide lockdown last year.

“Once I finished the three-and-a-half-hour project, my respect for the craft increased and so did my understanding of filmmaking. As a writer and director, one is involved in every nitty-gritty of a project. Seeing your product from what you wrote to what it became, is special,” she says.

Although she had to struggle with post-production work on account of the lockdown, she is relieved that she was able to pull it off. Since she had pitched the concept to Manorama, they had given her the green signal and so she was able to get it on air from January 1, 2021.

Incidentally, the name of the series is the name of her aunt’s family in Kerala. “I believe there is a kind of energy in the word Pandaram [a popular and informal way of expressing disagreeable feelings], which I wanted to use in the series. So I sought my aunt’s permission and she agreed,” says Archana.

Pleased with the response to her web series, Archana says she hopes to go back to her writing this year.

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