Kottayam Nazeer, a comedian and mimicry artist turned filmmaker, has been accused of plagiarism following his 2019 short film Kuttichan releasing on YouTube. The film, which was promoted by prominent names from the Malayalam film industry, has been mired in controversy after independent filmmaker Sudevan Peringode observed that Nazeer’s film has copied the unique technique and filmmaking style seen in his 2017 movie Akatho Puratho.
“A few friends of mine who are movie enthusiasts asked me to watch Nazeer’s Kuttichan. When I began watching the 15-minute movie, I immediately realised that the style of filmmaking was the same as what I had adopted in the 2nd segment of my 2.5 hour film. The segment is called Vruddhan or old man. He (Nazeer) had just changed the dialogues and characters,” Peringode told TNM.
Peringode’s Vruddhan is one of the 4 stories narrated in his film Akatho Puratho. The 20 minute long segment focuses on a bedridden man who is being taken care of by his family. Co-incidentally or not, Nazeer’s Kuttichan too deals with the very same plot - one where a bedridden man is visited by his childhood friend, played by Jaffar Idukki. However, the similarity does not end there. Kuttichan also uses the same style of camera work as seen in Peringode’s Vruddhan - both films are narrated through the eyes of the bedridden man. While the old man himself is not visible, the camera becomes his eyes and the viewers watch the story unfold through him.
Similarly, while one of the first scenes in Vruddhan is the daughter-in-law serving kanji or gruel to the old man, in Kuttichan, too, the daughter is heard telling Jaffar Idukki that she has just finished feeding Kuttichan some gruel or kanji.
Sudevan says that while it is not uncommon for Malayalam filmmakers to make a few tweaks and then release films which are copies of works done by independent filmmakers, he felt the need to speak up about Kuttichan as he fears that his work might get discredited in the future.
“Artists like Kottayam Nazeer are celebrities. Their work will receive crores of views in the next few weeks. I can only expect a maximum of 10,000 views for my films in a few months. Despite my film having released two years before Kuttichan, a lot of people will discredit my work and say that I plagiarised. So I want to make it clear that my work is 100 percent original. This is what I published on my Facebook page too,” he tells TNM.
Sudevan recounts that it took him 5 years to conceive the idea of Akatho Puratho.
“I do a thorough research on my subject before I go start shooting. After its release, we have had 40 screenings of the film in Thrissur, Kozhikode etc,” he says.
Filmmakers including Sanal Kumar Sasidharan of Sexy Durga fame have lent their support to Sudevan. In his Facebook post, Sanal wrote,”Despite winning a State Award, he (Nazeer) must have had the confidence that nobody would have seen the original film. He began his new film by thanking God and Superstars Mohanlal and Mammootty. But people will realise that what you have done is plain theft of Sudevan’s film."
Sanal also emphasised that Sudevan must move the court following this incident. However, in his conversation with TNM, Sudevan made it clear that he was not interested in fighting a court case.
“If Pace Trust, which has produced this film, decides to sue Nazeer, then I will support them. But I am not interested in fighting a case alone,” Sudevan added.
Kottayam Nazeer could not be reached for a comment.
Watch Kuttichan here: