Priyadarsan on the making of Malayalam cinema’s costliest film, ‘Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham’

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Director Priyadarsan on recreating the past for his starring role in Mohanlal, “Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham,” due out December 2.

Priyadarsan says Mohanlal Star Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham, which will be released on December 2, is his best film of his career. In addition to Malayalam, it will be released in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi.

The epic saga has caused a wave of hype since its announcement in 2017. The exploits of Kunjali Marakkar IV, a naval warrior and adventurer, have captured the filmmaker’s imagination ever since he read about him at school. Quite the opposite stories about Kunjali puzzled him.

“Revered by Arab traders and offended by Portuguese sailors, Kunjali was a brave sailor and warrior who lived and died for his land. I came across an African proverb that says, “Until the Lion learns to write, history will always be in the hunter’s favor.” This explains why the Arabs put him on a pedestal and the Portuguese branded him as a pirate. “

Mohanlal Starring in Priyadarsan’s Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham | Photo: Special arrangement

Kunjali was loyal to the Zamorins, the rulers of the former Malabar, who made him Marakkar, admiral of the fleet.

Perhaps the most successful mainstream director of Malayalam cinema, Priyadarsan has established himself in several genres and in different languages. From funny comedies to thrillers, historical sagas and action films, it has earned gold at the box office. Accidental misses between them did not affect his position at the box office.

Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham it is the most expensive Malayalam film ever made; its budget is reported to be in excess of £ 100 crore. The film is dedicated to the glory of the Indian Navy.

Written by Priyadarsan and scripted by the director and Ani Sasi, this historical film takes place in the 16th century, when the monopoly of traditional Arab traders was challenged by Portuguese ships that arrived in Kerala in 1498.

Director Priyadarsan

There are not many reliable accounts of Kunjali Marakkar I; the stories of where he comes from are not clear. Some accounts claim that he was an Egyptian who entered the service of the Zamorites, while some claim that he was an Arab who settled on the coast of Malabar. Even the facts about Kunjali Marakkar II, III and IV are shrouded in mystery.

Cinematic freedom

“There are many conflicting stories about the Marakkaras. Nevertheless, all the characters in my film are historical figures. Perhaps not all of them were contemporaries. I took on such cinematic liberty. “

There are no images of the Marakkars or how Kunjali Marakkar IV became such a fearsome warrior and trained him. “Was it a hereditary post? We are not sure. So my script is a mixture of fact, fiction and folklore, ”he says.

Mohanlal stars as Kunjali Marakkar in Priyadarsan's Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham.

Mohanlal stars as Kunjali Marakkar in Priyadarsan’s Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham | Photo: Special arrangement

With visual depictions of the costumes and ornaments of warriors and humans being virtually non-existent, the National Film Award-winning costume designers had to rely on their imaginations and some references from books and paintings.

Mohanlal and Priyadarsan discussed making a film about Kunjali Marakkar in 1996, but the problems they faced while making the film Kaalapani persuaded them to postpone the idea. The director recalls how difficult it was to shoot with one ship in Kaalapani and this was a film set in the turbulent waters of the Arabian Sea at the turn of the 16th century.

However, the rapid progress in visual effects and the producers willing to fund the epic project prompted Priyadarsan to rethink the idea of ​​a film about the legendary warrior.

Mohanlal stars as Kunjali Marakkar in Priyadarsan's Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham.

Mohanlal stars as Kunjali Marakkar in Priyadarsan’s Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham | Photo: Special arrangement

The film, which was shot under the Aashirvad Cinemas banner and co-produced by Moonshot Entertainments and the Confident Group, was released towards the end of 2018.

Starring Mohanlal Kunjali Marakkara IV, the all-star cast includes Nedumudi Venu, Prabhu, Suresh Kumar, Arjun Sarja, Sunil Shetty, Manju Warrier, Kirti Suresh, Siddiq, Mukesh and Pranav Mohanlal. He says the film was written with Mohanlal in the title role as he felt that the character needed an actor with an image that matched Kunjali’s height. The younger version of Kunjali was written by Pranav Mohanlal.

But for several shots of the Arabian Sea in Kovalam, Thiruvananthapuram, the entire film was shot at Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad.

Art and visual effects

Completed in 102 days, Priyadarsan claims the film could not have been made without the help of his trusted art director Sabu Cyril, with whom he has worked on several films. “In the city of Ramoji, a one-acre reservoir was created, filled with 1.5 liters of water. We have built four ships that have never been in the ocean. Director of photography Tirunavukarasu never saw the sea during filming; all the action on the high seas, storms and thunderstorms were created using visual effects, ”explains Priyadarsan.

Nedumudi Venu and Suniel Shetty in

Nedumudi Venu and Suniel Shetty in Priyadarsan’s opera Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham | Photo: Special arrangement

The film may only be released now, but it has already won three National Film Awards: Best Feature Film, Costume and Visual Effects. The visual effects award to his son Siddart Priyadarsan reinforces the director’s confidence that the film’s visuals are unparalleled in India. This is the first time the father-son duo has won a National Film Awards.

Rahul Raj’s music made a splash even before the film’s release.

Mohanlal with Jay Jackrit and Siddiq in Priyadarsan's film Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham

Mohanlal with Jay J. Jackrit and Siddiq in Priyadarsan’s opera Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham | Photo: Special arrangement

“Marakkar was a patriot whose loyalty to his land overcame caste and religious barriers. This is my message in my film. If Kunjali Marakkar was able to do this so many years ago, why is it so difficult for us to put our country above castes, religions and regions? “

Priyadarsan emphasizes that filmmakers transcend religion and politics. “I am a filmmaker and this is my livelihood. There is no politics or religion in cinema. This is how it should be. “

Harish Peradi and Arjun Sarja in a scene from Priyadarsan's film Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham

Harish Peradi and Arjun Sarja in a scene from Priyadarsan’s opera Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham | Photo: Special arrangement

While Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham Preparing to go to the cinema, Priyadarsan is filming a feature film in Tamil with Urvasi in the title role. “I liked reading the script Appata, a short film about a woman and her dog. This is Urvasi’s 700th film. Twenty eight years later Mithunam. I work with her. Madhu Ambat is the operator. “



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