MALAYALAM: ‘Gaddama’ speaks for a thousand wretched lives. Caught in a vicious cycle of no means of escape nor hope, they languish in the blistering heat of the Gulf countries for the sake of those who depend on them at home.
“There is no exaggeration in this movie. I personally know people who suffer like this, who continue to suffer. There are a million more such stories which remain unsaid. I want all of them to be exposed,” says K U Iqbal, the brain behind ‘Gaddama.’ Its story writer, to be more specific. A journalist at Malayalam News, the first Malayalam newspaper to be published outside India, it was his experiences doing odd jobs in the Gulf prior to his journalistic career and the experiences of those he interacted with on job that led to the birth of ‘Gaddama.’
It was a small news item published in Malayalam News eight years back — ‘Subaida Vilikkunnu,’ which forms the seed of the movie. Iqbal, who has been working in the paper for the past 11 years, is used to getting calls from Indians in deportation camps on a daily basis. But somehow, the call from Subaida struck a chord in him and he followed it up.
“The real Subaida dies at the end — not from abuse but from neglect and disease in a deportation camp. We are unable to help most of them as they don’t have proper legal documents.”
Years later, Bhashaposhini editor-in-charge K C Narayanan called up Iqbal and asked him to do an article for its anniversary edition. Iqbal narrated several of his Gulf stories to him but it was the story of the ‘Gaddama’ which appealed to the editor.
Iqbal had worked in Chitrabhumi magazine for a while and had many contacts from the film fraternity. But he never dreamt of using one of his stories for a film. “Neither at that point of time nor later did it ever strike me that the story of ‘Gaddama’ could be made into a movie. Interestingly, my wife Raseena once remarked on reading my article that it had a movie inside it.”
On reading Iqbal’s article in Bhashaposhini, director Kamal approached him with discussions about a movie. “My friendship with Kamal dates back to our days in Kodungalloor where we grew up. He is more like a brother to me. I admire his and producer P V Pradeep’s courage and determination to make the movie a reality. ” Together with that of Subaida, Iqbal narrated several stories of expatriates in the Gulf countries to Kamal. “The director and script writer K Gireeshkumar weaved them together.” Thus many of the characters in the movie, like that of Srinivasan, who plays Razak Kottekkad, are real-life characters. The only difference is that his name is Shihab. “The work Shihab has done and is still doing for Indians in Gulf countries is incredible. He has devoted his life for them.” Ultimately, the movie is about human relationships of different types; of love between human beings which pervades and not just romance.
Iqbal is currently the Riyad correspondent of the Malayalam News and swears that there are a lot of misconceptions about press freedom in Saudi. Even the Arab media has taken note of ‘Gaddama’ and written positive and insightful reviews about it from an entirely new perspective, he says.
Iqbal left for Saudi Arabia when he was 20. What awaited him was misery and loneliness and at one point, he returned home only to go back again because there was no choice. The turning point happened with the launch of Malayalam News. Iqbal has authored two books - ‘Nadukkandangal’ which is a compilation of his articles in newspapers like Mathrubhumi, Manorama and Madhyamam for which he freelanced, and ‘Yaanapathram’, again a compilation of his experiences in the Gulf, once serialised in Malayalam News.
“The success of a movie ultimately depends on the content and I’m confident of that aspect of ‘Gaddama’,” he says.