DECCAN CHRONICLE. | MERIN JAMES
Filmmaker Leena Manimekalai is all set to direct the biopic of the Indian English poet and writer Kamala Das aka Madhavikutty.
When Malayalam film maker Kamal announced that he would be directing a biopic on the late poet Kamala Das, it piqued curiosity among audiences everywhere. Earlier, it was reported that Bollywood actress Vidya Balan would reprise the role of Kamala in the film titled Aami. But recently, the actress walked out of the project for unknown reasons. Later, the director roped in Manju Warrier for the same.
Now, Chennai-based filmmaker-poet Leena Manimekalai has come into the picture and declared that she will also be directing an independent film on Kamala Das! Apparently, Kamal had approached Leena with the idea of a biopic three years ago. “He called me and said that I resembled ‘Madhavikkutty’ (Kamala) and whether I could act in the movie. By that time, inspired by the book Love Queen of Malabar and her complete works, I had co-written a script with my Malayalam translator Ravi Shankaren. I had informed Kamal of this and even sent him a copy of the script,” reveals Leena, adding that the director had commented that it was too radical for the Malayali audience.
“He asked me to learn Malayalam and get prepared to essay the role in the script he wrote instead,” she adds. After a few months though, Kamal called Leena and informed her that the film was being made on a larger scale — and that Vidya Balan had been roped in for the Malayalam version! “Kamal said Vidya would be the heroine in the Malayalam project — but I’d be taking on the onus in English. But when Vidya backed out due to pressure given by right-wing groups, he roped in Manju Warrier for the Mollywood film, and dropped the idea of the English project altogether!” Leena exclaims.
“Kamal is a senior filmmaker and he might have his own reasons. But what bothered me is that after discussing the script and other details, he couldn’t keep his word. So I’ve decided to go ahead and direct an independent film on Kamala Das. I would like to focus on the film I left behind three years ago. Only an independent expression can place a poet’s soul ahead of market interests,” quips the filmmaker.
So, what’s next ? Leena shares, “I had put aside my script which I originally wrote, as I was promised to be cast in Kamal’s Aami (Malayalam) initially and Kamala Das (English) later. But now, I am not interested to collaborate with him on any level. I am going back to my original script — which is more of a fictional take on Kamala Das’ life, works and the memories she left behind with the people who were close to her. I have to start from scratch now!”
Leena has sharpened the story draft and started looking for production. “I will go through my own independent filmmaking route, by searching for international co-producers and make the film on a global level. for an international audience. As my film The Sunshine is on the roll now, I will be patient with Kamala Das. It will be nuanced and layered with the essence of a poet’s soul,” she signs off. The film will be shot in Kerala, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Canada and will be finished by the end of 2018.