Kamaluddin Mohammed better known as Kamal is currently a filmmaker under siege.Accused by right-wing parties of anti-nationalism the shy brilliant director of the Malayalam masterpieces like Celluloid, Gramophone and Aggathan finally opens up in a candid interview with Subhash K Jha.
From a National award winning filmmaker to an anti-national traitor, this happens only in India, don’t you agree?
(Laughs nervously) I still don’t know what happened. I though India belongs to all Indians. I was born and brought up in India. I am as Indian as anyone else. I don’t see myself as a Hindu or Muslim. I am an Indian filmmaker.
You had to be hospitalized?
Yes, but it had nothing to do with the controversy. I needed to get myself looked at.
Have you been provided security from the people who are hounding and threatening you?
Now I am in my hometown Kodungallur which is on the outskirts of Kochi one hour away by car.I was actually born in a village named Mathilakam. But I grew up in Kodungallur. My house is here. Everything is peaceful here. No sign of any aggression . Actually this is a Communist-dominated area.And though the BJP has clout in these parts too I am safe from any attack.So here, I am only hearing about all the things that I am supposed to have done and all the things that people want to do to me.
So you make you films from this little town?
Yes, I prefer to stay here because all my family relatives and friends stay here. I feel comfortable and secure here. My home town is Communist and secular. That’s why I told you I grew up feeling neither Muslim nor Hindu.
When you hear and read of your being anti-national how do you react?
I don’t even know what exactly happened. As you know I am the chairperson of the Kerala State Film Academy. The National anthem is played before each and every film in every theatre in Kerala. I never protested against the national anthem being played in cinema houses.Why would I do that? I only protested against the police being sent to a cinema house to arrest people during the national anthem. In the capacity of the chairperson of the Kerala State Film Academy I protested against police force-entering the cinema house. That was not right.
How does this make you anti-national?
To this day I don’t know. Maybe those who accusing me can explain how.It could be my Communist leanings. During the last elections I campaigned for some Communist candidates. I am a Communist. That’s my political ideology.
That doesn’t make you anti-national?
No it doesn’t.But they know better.They’ve be targeting individuals from the arts , be it cinema or literature. I am sure you’ve heard of the way the veteran litterateur M.T.Vasudevan was targeted and abused like anything.
To add to your troubles Vidya Balan has backed out of your Kamla Das bio-pic Aami?
Yes .the timing of her decision is very unfortunate, though I’d like to believe that the right-wing pressure had nothing to do with it. But I am not stressing over her departure. I am going to make the film without VidyaBalan with another fine artiste. This is my dream project. One Vidya can’t take my dream away from me.I’ve been planning this project for four years.
Was it a shock when you heard she has opted out?
It came as a complete surprise.She had given us no prior indication of her intentions.I don’t know the reason for her behaving this way . But it is unethical and unprofessional. It doesn’t suit such a great actor to behave like this.Just one week before the shooting was to begin Vidya informed us she’s not doing it. This is not done.
What do you think happened?
I don’t know. I gave her the script. She was very happy and preparing for the part.Suddenly this happened.
Do you think your current political problem scared her off?
I don’t think so. I think ultimately Kamla Das proved too controversial for Vidya. She was scared to portray her.As you know Kamla Das had converted to Islam. Maybe there were pressures on Vidya. I really don’t know what her insecurities were. Her recent Hindi movies have been failures.I wish her well.
Are you confident about making Aami without Vidya Balan?
Hundred percent confident. I have distinguished names like Gulzar and Resul Pookutty associated with the project. I don’t have to worry.By the way Gulzar came on board knowing how controversial Kamla Das’ life was. So did Vidya. We didn’t deceive her into accepting the film. It is unfortunate that she left us.It’s not good.