He is rated as one of the most versatile talents of Malayalam cinema, but the movies that Murali Gopi pens are magnets for controversies. His most recent film, Left Right Left, and last year’s sleeper hit Ee Adutha Kalathu are two prime examples. Both the films, while providing food for thought to the viewers, put the writer-actor in the face of severe criticism from various quarters.
If Ee Adutha Kalathu drew the ire of certain groups over alleged religious propaganda of a particular community, Left Right Left saw Murali being castigated for taking an anti-Marxist stand. Brushing aside the insinuations, Murali says, “My films are being wrongly interpreted by some sections for no reason. When Ee Adutha Kalathu was released, I was taken aback at the charges claiming that my script was religious propaganda. It hurt me as well as my creative sentiments. But, honestly, it did not affect my desire to try something different.”
He says the one lesson he learnt is that it is not easy to convince a large section of the Malayali audience which still has not come to terms with the revolutionary changes in the world of cinema and cinematic thought or the spirit of experimentation. “The irony is that the same crowd will applaud similar experiments and out-of-the-box stories in other language films,” says Murali. “For instance, in Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino took the cinematic liberty to change the historical fact of Hitler’s end with characteristic flair. But, here, we are criticised on such flimsy grounds when we attempt to tell a different story.”
Was the uncanny resemblance between Kaitheri Sahadevan, one of the lead characters in Left Right Left, and CPM party secretary Pinarayi Vijayan a sheer coincidence? “I do not know why it was interpreted in such a manner,” says Murali. “I do not have political leanings. For me, the pushes and pulls of the political world are akin to a game of tennis where I do not have a favourite player. About Sahadevan, I was supposed to play that character. But later we thought of Prakash Raj and then settled on Hareesh Peradi. His slang and appearance might have led to the wrong notions about his likeness to a certain leader. But other than the physical manifestation, neither the incidents in the character’s life, nor his story, have any resemblance to anyone’s life.”
Murali reveals that in Left Right Left, ‘Red’ was used as a theme. “What we intended through the title was an in-tandem march of righteousness by three individuals,” he says. “When people start treating characters as characters alone and cinema as cinema, rather than read ulterior meanings into it, controversies will no longer arise.”
The spirited cineaste inherited a natural flair for movies, being the son of late Bharath Gopi, who is regarded as one the most versatile performers of Indian cinema. Apart from his exceptional scripts, Murali has also tasted success as an actor. He is now donning the greasepaint for Kanchi and One by Two. Even as he is busy in front of the camera, the pen continues to wield power, with two scripts in progress. The first is Ratheesh Ambatt’s directorial debut with Dileep, Fahad Fazil and Murali himself in lead roles.
The second will see Murali writing for superstar Mohanlal for the first time—the much-anticipated Lucifer. Quiz him about what viewers can expect when his writing talent combines with the powerhouse performance of Mohanlal, and the writer quips, “Lalism,” without batting an eyelid.