A lesser known Malayalam film made it to the Guinness Book of World Records last week. Vishwaguru, directed by Kerala-based Vijeesh Mani, is now the fastest film to be made from script to screen beating a Sri Lankan project, Mangala Gamana, which was completed in 71 hours.
On this film based on the life of a social reformer, Sree Narayana Guru, Vijeesh says, “Producer AV Anoop and I wanted Guruji’s messages to be spread around the world. The film was scripted, shot, edited (on the spot), registered, censored, publicised and screened within two days, three hours and two minutes.”
"The team has tried to ‘loyally recapture the eventful life journey of Narayana Guru", adds the director. “For instance, there’s an episode that showcases a conversation between Mahatma Gandhi and Guru against the backdrop of the Vaikom Satyagraha. We also found out that his life involved interactions with other historical figures like Rabindranath Tagore, and we’ve included them too.”
Vijeesh believes there’s an audience for films on spirituality. “The subject of the film, in my eyes, is the essence of faith. And by ‘faith’, I mean the values. Guru’s followers are not only in Kerala, but everywhere. His philosophy was one caste, one religion, and one god, and his appeal cuts across caste and religious boundaries,” he says.
Producer Anoop says Narayana Guru was one of the first people who organised a “movement against upper caste orthodoxy, demanding basic civil rights for backward castes.” He elaborates, “Until then, half the people didn’t have the rights to even walk on roads. In fact, they were banned from visiting temples, and drew water from wells.”
The story of Narayana Guru is exceptional, says Anoop. “We consider it a blessing to be bringing this out when Malayalam cinema is celebrating 90 years. We chose to rope in theatre artistes after the scripting process began. It has been a purifying and fulfilling exercise.”
The film’s cast includes actors like Purushothaman Kainakkari, Gandhiyan Chacha Sivarajan, Kaladharan, and Kalanilayam Ramachandran in key roles.
Vijeesh says the Guinness record achievement is a matter of pride for the entire film fraternity in India. “It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Guru’s followers. To ensure factual accuracy, we sought the help of Satchidananda Swami, and did the script work for around three hours. We’re planning to have more mobile screenings in Kerala with the subtitles. We’ve got positive feedback from the private screenings held. If this attempt is successful, it will change the way films are made in the country,” he says.
He doesn’t think the limitation of time affected the quality of the filmmaking. “We planned it all well ahead of time,” he says.
Anoop adds that the team has done extensive research on the subject. “History in schools are often focussed on kingdoms, dynasties and wars. The remarkable contributions of our sages are generally kept away as it’s often being misunderstood for ‘religious’ stuff. I felt something should be done in cinema.”