It is writer Anand Neelakantan who first spoke of Manu S Pillai’s book The Ivory Throne: Chronicles of the House of Travancore to Shobu Yarlagadda, the producer of the Baahubali films. Anand had joined the Baahubali team ever since he wrote a prequel to the first part of the movies, to be adapted into a web series – The Rise of Sivagami.
When Anand mentioned Manu’s book, Shobu thought it was a fascinating story. On Monday, HarperCollins, Ivory Throne’s publisher, gave out the news – the book shall be adapted to screen. And Shobu tweeted saying that it would be a web series.
“It had to be a web series because of the massive volume of the book that runs into 700 pages,” Shobu tells TNM. “There are 200-300 years of history and a film won’t do justice to that. There are too many stories to be told.”
Manu’s book focuses mostly on the last queen of Travancore, Sethu Lakshmi Bayi. Baahubali too had been a period film. But Shobu says it is coincidence that they go back in time for their movies and screen adaptations of books. “We have heard stories of kingdoms before but this (Ivory Throne) is unique. A unique way of life that’s not been shown on screen before,” the producer says.
They haven’t decided the cast yet, or even the language. “It is a long process, adapting a book to screen,” he says, and you can almost hear the sighs. They will try to stay as faithful to the book as possible. “We need to realise it is a fact-based book, we can’t fictionalise it much,” Shobu says
Image courtesy: manuspillai.com
There is the scripting to be done, and Manu may not be directly involved in it. “He has done his research for five or six years, speaking to many authentic sources. He is an expert in it," adds Shobu.
Manu does not wish to be involved either. He tells us, “My own instinct would be to not do the script, leaving that to a professional, and to only help look over it for accuracy or to perhaps add historical detail and that sort of thing.”
The author is more than comfortable with the idea of his book being taken to screen. He thinks there is also feature film potential for the book since there are multiple stories within the larger narrative that can be adapted separately.
“Umayamma Rani in the 17th century as one; the early 19th century when Gowri Lakshmi Bayi and Colonel Munro were at the helm; the life story of Sethu Lakshmi Bayi alone, and so on,” he cites examples.
When he was writing the book, the concept of a web series was still new (the book came out in 2016). But he did think that one day he’d like to do a documentary about the protagonist of the book. “After the book was written, however, several people started telling me that this had potential in quite a different format, and that got me thinking. One of the first people to point this out was Anjali Menon (filmmaker)," he shares.
The producers would decide the cast, of course, but when Anjali and Manu had chatted about it, they had come up with two names: Parvathy and Rima Kallingal. But for now, it's all in the air and we'll have to wait for the team to make their decisions.