A bohemian romantic in every sense, that was what poet P Kunjiraman Nair was. The iconoclastic life of the poet and his works that adored the beauty of ‘Valluvanadan’ Kerala remain an inspiration for many Keralites even now. Farook Abdulrahiman who was brought up in the culturally vibrant Palakkad where Mahakavi P lived a major period of his life, was no different. Having perused majority of the works of the poet from his childhood, it was an aspiration for the television filmmaker to helm a movie based on him.
And the result of the twelve-year-long toil was Kaliyachan, that bagged Farook many laurels including this year’s State Award for the best debutant director. The film starring Manoj K Jayan, that unravels the underlying conflicts within the mind of a Kathakali artist, will reach the theatres next month.
“Like every youngster of Palakkad who grew reading the works of Mahakavi, I too had immense admiration for him from my pre-degree days. I frequently met people with whom the poet had associated, at Chittor and Kollamkode regions where he had stamped his footprints. When I read his poems, I was immediately struck by the simplicity of his language and the way he worshipped nature and life. Unlike other poets of our times, P was a rare person for whom art was worthier than the material gains of life,” begins Farook eloquently about his connect with the poet.
The filmmaker, who has been working in Doordarshan from 1984, is the creator of many award-winning tele-films including ‘Thunchath Acharyan’ (1995) and ‘Swathanthryathinte Chirakadiyochakal’ (2000).
The film was initially visualised as an autobigraphic take titled ‘Kaviyude Kalpadulal’ (Foot Prints of a Poet).
“A friend suggested Kaliyachan to which I agreed,” says Farook. He selected Manoj to do the protagonist’s role. The real struggle began then. No producer had the pluck to shell out money for the film.
Several years after completing the script, National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) agreed to produce the film.
“Kaliyachan is a poignant poem of a Kathakali artist who lives with a chaotic mind. Kunjiraman is an artist who struggles in his life and profession. At a point of life, he feels even the characters for which he dons greasepaint are turning against him,” says the director about the film.
Kunjiraman has an intricate relation with his master. For him nature and the divine almighty are his masters, like the poet himself, says Farook. “In the poem, P had brilliantly woven a story within the universal theme that he wanted to convey.”
Farook says visualising a film based on a literary work was challenging, but not an impossible task. “The cinematic version of Kaliyachan has immense scope. Though the poet does not appear in the film, his amaranthine presence is there, felt through the imageries based on his works,” he says. “Poet’s love for river Nila, nature, mother and other women, said through many of his works like ‘Thaamarathoni’, ‘Karshakasthree’, ‘Mankudathinte Vila’, are discussed in the film,” says the director.
Tirtha Murbadkar from Mumbai plays Devu, the personification of the countless romantic encounters that the poet had. “Devu is the female version of the poet, and is one of the audacious female characters that Malayalam industry has produced,” claims the director.
Koodiyattam master Kalamandalam Sivan Namboodiri has done Kunjiraman’s master’s role.
The award-winning back ground music of the film was by Biji Pal.
P Jayachandran and Biji Pal have rendered the songs.