Recently, reports of the ICHR planning to remove names of Malabar Rebellion leaders from the martyrs dictionary had led to a controversy.

Collage of Aashiq on the left wearing a black t shirt and Prithviraj on the right with a stunned expression wearing green shirtAashiq Abu and Prithviraj
Flix Malabar Rebellion Wednesday, September 01, 2021 - 17:33

Nearly a year after all the hullabaloo over a Malayalam movie on Variyamkunnath Kunhahammed Haji, who led the 1921 Malabar Rebellion, it is now confirmed both the director of the film Aashiq Abu and the lead actor Prithviraj Sukumaran have withdrawn from the project. Discord with the producer of the movie reportedly led to the project being cancelled. The movie was to be produced by Zikandar and Moideen under the banner of Compassion Movies. Aashiq Abu confirmed that the decision was taken a few months ago.

As soon as the movie had got announced last year, there was a lot of attack on actor Prithviraj for taking up the role of Variyamkunnath, by right wing activists. Later, one of the scriptwriters Rameez pulled out of the project after his old Facebook posts that were misogynistic and radical went viral.

Back then it had also emerged that though the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruling the country was against the movie, the name of Variyamkunnath, executed by the British, was in the book Dictionary of Martyrs of India's Freedom Struggle released by the Union Ministry of Culture along with the ICHR (Indian Council of Historical Research). However, recently, there were reports of the ICHR planning to remove the names of all leaders of the Malabar Rebellion from the book. A move criticised by the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala.

Right wing supporters had criticised the making of the movie that they thought would glorify Variyamkunnath and the rebellion, a movement that they had claimed was anti-Hindu. However LDF and UDF members argued that the rebellion was a fight against the British in India and the leaders of the movement were freedom fighters. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also recently spoke of Variyamkunnath as a freedom fighter. 

Around the time that the Aashiq Abu - Prithviraj movie was announced, four other films on the same subject also got announced, it being the 100th year of the rebellion. Among those who announced movies was also Ali Akbar, a Sangh Parivar supporter. Others include PT Kunhumuhammed, Ibrahim Vengara and Shahbaz Pandikka.

Read from archive: Variyamkunnath and nuances of the Malabar Rebellion: Author Manu S Pillai interview

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