My film on Kamala Das won’t be sanitised to cater to mainstream tastes

Asha Prakash| Mar 6, 2017, 00:00 IST


Says Tamil writer Leena Manimekalai, who alleges that director Kamal is more bothered about the commercial demands of the movie than the poet’s soul, which is why she felt the need to go ahead with her own version of a film on Kamala Das

You wrote on your social media post that you had also planned to make a film on Kamala Das.

I always wanted to do a film on Kamala Das and had read through her works in depth. But what inspired me to make a movie was this book called Love Queen of Malabar, written by a Canadian author Merrily Weisbord. It gave me interesting insights into her life. My idea was that her eventful life should be portrayed in an honest manner. I read all her works in English and translations of the Malayalam works. I envisioned the film as an Indian English film, a fictional take on her life and not a biopic. It would be my take on what essence I get from her life and works.

Did you discuss the work with Kamal who is also making a film on the poet?

I wrote the script with the help of my translator and poet Ravishankar. It was at that point of time that Kamal spoke to me, around three years back. I knew Kamal since one decade and he was a good friend. He told me about his project and said he had always felt I look like Kamala and would like me to play the poet in his film. I said I’m also working on my script and didn’t announce it as its still being developed. I always take the independent filmmaker route, not the commercial one. I sent my script to him, to which he replied that it was too radical for the Malayali audience. ‘Your films are for the international audience. I do films for the Malayali audience so it has to be a mainstream project for me,’ he said. He sent his script to me which I found to be a different take altogether. Malayalam readers might have that image of her which I’m not familiar with.

What did you decide then?

We decided that he will make Aami in Malayalam while I will do the English version for the international audience, which can be radical like the one I wrote. That can be called Kamala Das and I had the full freedom in that though it would be a colloboration. So I went with the faith I had in him.

Later he called me and said that he has cast Vidya Balan in the role and the project is big now. So, we came to an agreement that Aami can have Vidya Balan in the lead while Kamala will have me.

Aami was supposed to start in December and Kamala in June. However, when I met Kamal at the IFFK last year, he told me that Hindutva groups are pressurising Vidya Balan to back out. At that point, I just wished that he gets out of the crisis.

No, I casually learnt from a website that Manju Warrier is now doing the film! There should be a valid reason for Kamal to use a particular actor for a script, right? He was succumbing to market interests and it was not a film which would do justice to Kamala.
Also, if Kamal is honest, shouldn’t he come back to me when Vidya backs out? He should have had a discussion at least with me. I felt counted out. He might have his reasons for everything but I sent a message to him saying, ‘The demands from the market are much more important than the poet’s soul itself for you; I’ll go independent and am not interested in a collaboration.’

So what are you planning to do next?

I think I’ll go back to my script and do it my own ways and means. My focus will be on the bundle of contradictions that she was and to present her charm as such. She lived her life to the fullest and her sexuality was that of a free spirit. It reflects in her poetry as well. She has spoken about her husband being a gay and has revealed her love for a young Muslim man in The Love Queen of Malabar. When asked why she converted to Islam, she replies, ‘all for love’. I want to capture all such tender and beautiful moments on screen. She is an enigma and that has to be captured with all the sincerity. I don’t want to go for a sanitised version to cater to mainstream moral standards.


When will the project take off?

I am in no hurry. I had held back this project for Kamal’s film. So, now I’ll revisit my script. I have other projects as well. It’ll take a year at least.

My film on Kamala Das won’t be sanitised to cater to mainstream tastes

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