The film will chronicle the battle years of Kunjahammed Haji, when he waged one of the greatest civil wars against the British empire in Malabar.

In Aashiq Abu film Prithviraj to play Vaariyamkunnan leader of Malabar revolution
Flix Mollywood Monday, June 22, 2020 - 14:04

The name of Vaariyan Kunnath Kunjahmmed Haji, who led to victory the 1921 Malabar Rebellion against the British Raj in pre-independent India, may have been forgotten in history but cinema might revive the legacy of this fiery freedom fighter soon.

On Monday, it was announced that actor Prithviraj and director Aashiq Abu will come together for a period film titled Vaariyamkunnan in 2021, based on the life of the freedom fighter from Kerala.

According to sources, the film will chronicle the battle years of Kunjahammed Haji, when he waged one of the greatest civil wars against the British empire in Malabar, known as the Malabar Rebellion of 1921. The script is the result of an eight-year research by writer Rameez. Writer Harshad of Unda fame is also on board. Muhsin Parari who wrote the much acclaimed Sudani from Nigeria, will co-direct the movie.

"The point is to see this as a revolution against the British, and not as a rebellion they relegated it as," a source associated with the movie said.

Haji with his longtime friend Ali Musaliyar raised an army of 75,000 fighters and ran a parallel government in the Valluvanad and Eranad taluks in Malabar and called it ‘Malayala Rajyam’. The Malabar revolt was the only incident in India’s colonial history when the British fought, lost and conceded an area of land which was directly under the Madras Presidency, to another ruler for about six months. Haji was considered among the most powerful enemies of the British Raj. 

Such was the impact of his fight, that following the revolt, the British actively discouraged discourse on the achievements of Kunjahammed Haji and other Moplah leaders who led the revolt, fearing that the stories would fuel another uprising against colonial rule. They also took efforts to rewrite history in a defamatory way that would mock the leader’s achievements. However, Haji remains among the greatest historical figures from the Malabar region of Kerala and is significant to the state’s political history. He was sentenced to death by Colonel Humphrey in 1922 and shot dead, after which his mortal remains and all government records chronicling his months long rule in Malabar were burned by British officials. 

Russian revolutionary, political theorist and politician Lenin of Soviet Russia is said to have been intrigued by Kunjahammed Haji, and in 1922, he reportedly asked Indian revolutionary Abani Mukherji, who was based in the Soviet Union, to learn about Kunjahammed Haji’s true history.

Though there was a ban on writing about Haji within India, the Leftist newspaper Deshabimani flouted the restriction and wrote about him. Poet Kambalathu Govindan Nair also wrote poetry about the leader, for which he was punished.

In 1946, communist leader AK Gopalan, known as AKG, wrote about Haji. It was only after independence that Haji’s story was allowed to be told and only in 1971 that the Kerala government acknowledged those who took part in the rebellion as freedom fighters. The Malabar rebellion has been a point of debate in Kerala for long. Former state BJP President Kummanam Rajasekharan once called it a religious massacre and India's first jihad. Read here.

In his post announcing the film, Prithviraj wrote: “He stood up against an empire that ruled a quarter of the world. Etched out his own country with an army that waged a never before war against the British. Though history was burned and buried, the legend lived on! The legend of a leader, a soldier, a patriot. A film on the man who became the face of the 1921 Malabar revolution. #Vaariyamkunnan.”

The actor announced that the filming of the project will begin in 2021, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Malabar Rebellion.

Vaariyamkunnan will be produced by Zikander and Moideen, with the screenplay developed by Harshad and Rameez. The film will be co-directed by Muhsin Parari with editing and costumes done by Shyju Khaleed (Ee Ma Yau, Sudani from Nigeria etc) and Sameera Saneesh.

"The point is to see this as a revolution against the British, and not as a rebellion they relegated it as," a source associated with the movie said.

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