“Any creative interpretation can never be carved in stone, but is always relative in terms of the created and the creator”

After Srividya Vidya Balan was my only choice to play Madhavikutty Kamal to TNMPic Courtesy: Kamal
Flix Talking Cinema Monday, June 27, 2016 - 18:40

Ever since the critical and box-office success of ace director Kamal’s last film, “Celluloid” – a biopic on JC Daniel, the father of Malayalam cinema – in 2013, one question on everyone’s mind was when the director will start work on his next biopic and on whom would it be based.

Revealing to The News Minute a long-harboured desire to bring writer Madhavikutty alive on the screen, Kamal says, “My intense love affair with the writings of Madhavikutty had its beginnings during my college days. This was sometime in 1976-77. Campus life was never more beautiful with the liberating breeze of her bold writing wafting through our lives.”

As to what it was that made her such an intense presence in his life, Kamal says, “She was someone who turned the traditional concept of how a woman should be on its head, with her independent streaks in thought as well as action, unfettered style and evocative language.”

But for the longest time, Kamal felt he could not do justice to her story. “I never thought I had it in me to be able to translate the same onscreen. It is only after ‘Celluloid’s success that I convinced myself that the time had indeed come to bring alive the woman, whose life and writings I have so immensely admired for long.”

This, coming from someone who has helmed more than 43 movies – most, runaway hits – in his cinematic career, gives a glimpse of the completely unassuming individual Kamal is in person.

He talks with unabated enthusiasm in the charming Thrissur dialect that lend an added charm to his next celluloid venture, all set to begin on September 20. The shooting will be held in three separate schedules in Kerala, Mumbai and Kolkata. He hopes for a Vishu release in 2017.

“It was at the beginning of 2014 that I had pitched the idea to Vidya Balan who acquiesced immediately, but said that she would be able to commit to the project only sometime in 2016. I was okay with that and got round to working on the script,” Kamal recalls.

He added that while the film was earlier planned as a bilingual in Malayalam and English, “owing to certain unforeseen technicalities, I later opted to make the whole movie in Malayalam.”

Why Vidya Balan?

Vidya Balan was actually Kamal’s second choice. “As I have said earlier elsewhere, Srividya was my first choice -had she been alive- as she was someone who shared a kindred soul with Madhavikutty with her unconventional life and the roles that she essayed onscreen.”

Since that was no longer an option, Vidya Balan was the only other choice for him. “Not only because she is a Malayali by birth, but someone who has defied stereotypes in not only her physical appearance, but in her choice of characters that she donned the grease for, till date,” Kamal shares.

Though a Malayali by birth, Vidya is not very fluent in her mother tongue. But the consummate actor that she is, Vidya has kept aside 20 days in August this year to work on her language skills and dialogue delivery, so as to capture the linguistic essence of Madhavikutty, the poetess, as well as the larger-than-life aura that she possessed.

“Anyone who has heard Madhavikutty speak, will be familiar with her unique style of conversation. And for that to be captured onscreen, I have arranged for someone to actually sit with Vidya and work on her diction, tone and style. I have already provided her the entire script in both Malayalam and English,” smiles Kamal.

Kamal does not plan the biopic to be a faithful chronology of Madhavikutty’s life per se, but a creative amalgamation of fiction and reality. 

“We all know Madhavikutty as not just Madhavikutty, but also Kamala Das and later Kamala Surayya towards the end of her life. Her writings focused mainly on her childhood days, later moving on to her teenage when she got married at the tender age of 15. Then there is the religious conversion at the fag end of her life. I intend to touch upon all these major highlights of her life, but of course tinged with my own artistic sensibility,” says Kamal.

“Any creative interpretation can never be carved in stone, but is always relative in terms of the created and the creator,” he adds.

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