The life of Karnan, the tragic hero from the epic Mahabharatha have inspired many art forms, be it a play, novel or film. This warrior will soon light up our screens with writer-director R S Vimal, who had a striking entry into Mollywood through Ennu Ninte Moideen, announcing his next titled Karnan starring Prithviraj, a couple of days ago in Dubai. However, the ‘twist’ came when actor-director P Sreekumar told about his screenplay based on Karnan to be directed by actor-director Madhupal with Mammootty in the lead.
The theme of the 1991 Diwali release Thalapathi too was based on the friendship between Karna and Duryodhana. Surya (Rajinikanth), the abandoned child of an unwed mother Kalyani (Srividya), is befriended by local don Deva
Karna-bhara depicts Karna’s mental agony a day before the Kurukshetra War, as he thinks about his past and his faith. Mohanlal performed Karna on the stage in Karnabharam,when it was premiered in New Delhi in 2001 as part of the Bharat Rang Mahotsav directed by Kavalam Narayana Panicker. The play is one of the two known tragic Sanskrit plays in ancient India as it ends with the premonitions of the sad end of Karna.
The story of Karnan, born to an unmarried mother Kunti who abandons him in the Ganges was first filmed half a century ago. Karnan, produced and directed by B R Panthulu, was considered a milestone in Tamil cinema as it brought together Sivaji Ganesan and NT Rama Rao, the then leading actors of South India. It was released on January 14, 1964 during Pongal and dubbed in Telugu as Karna and in Hindi as Dhaan Veer Karna. Officially launched in 1963, this was the first Tamil film to be shot in the palaces of Jaipur and the war sequences were filmed in Kurukshetra, which featured several soldiers from the Indian Army. Infantry from the Indian Army were brought to the locations at Kurukshetra. The battle scenes were shot with troupes of the 61 Cavalry Regiment, using 80 elephants, 400 horses and three cameras. It also won the Certificate of Merit for the Third Best Feature Film at the 11th National Film Awards. A digitised version of Karnan was released in March 2012 to become the first Tamil film to have a theatrical run of over 100 days in its re-release.
(Writer of Mammootty starrer)
In fact, our project started in 1994 after my film Vishnu. My idea was to get the movie written by MT Vasudevan Nair. However, it did not progress. Then he told me to write the script and suggested a few books for my reference. I finished the script after reading, consulting and travelling, 18 years ago. Though I always had Mammootty as the lead, Mohanlal was the first to listen to the script and he liked it. The project was stuck as the Sanskrit scholar whom I consulted passed away two years ago. We are not worried about the title. Everything will be announced at pooja which will be held as soon as the producer who is now abroad returns. We will have actors from Malayalam as we have immense talent here itself. We are not for competing with anyone. Mahabharata can be interpreted by anyone and my story will be with me and I am not scared of it going anywhere else.
R S Vimal
(writer director of Karnan starring Prithviraj)
Karnan is my childhood hero. However, anybody is free to bring in their interpretation. Even you can script him as the hero. My film will be a onscreen spectacle and will be a multi-lingual production. Hence, our budget may go higher than `45 crore. I don’t know who propagated that amount. We are not worried about the budget. We plan it to release in more than 2,000 screens across the country. This will be my version of Karnan and I cant tell what it will be now. More than battles, it will have the social ambiance of the period. Certainly, we will have the best actors in the film. We have roped in K K Senthil Kumar who did the camera for Bahubali. Now I am working on the story board.