Malayalam Director Kamal: “I Am Not Scared  Of Protests Against My Kamala Das Bio-pic”

Kamaluddin Mohammed Majeed,known as Kamal  in Malayalam cinema is not a worried man. Though his bio-pic on  the very fiery author-poet Kamala Das has ignited heated debates and protests , and an attempt was made to stop the film legally for propagating ‘love jihad’—a charge that Kamal vehemently  denies in  this interview with me–luckily the Kerala High Court quashed the case and Aami, as  Kamal’s Kamala bio-pic is titled, is ready for release.

 Taking time off from  extensive pre-release preparations hours before release Kamal spoke to this writer wondering how his film propagates  ‘love jihad’.

“At the time when Kamala Das converted to Islam and fell in love with a Muslim there was  no concept of love jihad.This is a coinage that has gained currency in recent times. I still don’t know what it means. I am thankful to the judiciary  for intervening in time for  my film’s release,” says Kamal, adding that  for filmmakers like him who insist on having their say, the judiciary  is  the only solace.

“Where do we go when we are attacked? Look at what  happened with Sanjay Bhansali’s Padmavat! We still don’t know what the protests were  about. Before we  knew it the  protests spread like wildfire. After the  film was somehow released  it was obvious that the  film was not guilty  of what it was accused  of doing. In fact it was doing just the  opposite.Is there any remedy or rectification for filmmakers who are suffer through such baseless protests?” asks Kamal.

 He  feels  the protests against creative art will grow in the coming times. “Not just against  cinema  but all arts—painting, literature, theatre…But cinema will be targeted  more for the very simple reason that it is more visible. More people watch films than read books or see plays. Cinema is  therefore the most convenient medium to target and get noticed.”

 Freedom of expression, feels Kamal, is now  only for bullies. “The more you shout about freedom of expression the stronger the chances of oppressing the  voices that actually stand for that freedom.My cinema has been targeted earlier also. I am not scared  to have my say , no matter what happens.”

Kamal knew Kamal Das’ life was controversial. “Whether it was her poetry or  other writings  or her personal relationships, she didn’t tie herself down to conventional definitions of  morality. When we set  out to make the  film Aami we knew we were getting into an unorthodox life. So I can’t say I didn’t expect some backlash. Protests about love jihad were unexpected.I’ve no idea where that came from.”

 Kamal is not scared of disrupted shows when the film opens on February 9. “In Kerala the moviegoing audience is a very strong and powerful lobby. It’s not easy to  shake off their convictions and their faith in cinema to bring change in social taboos. I don’t anticipate any  major disruption. Maybe sporadic random incidents here and there. But a concentrated orchestrated  protest like the one  for Padmaavat is  not  going to harm my film.”

Aami  was  in the news earlier when Vidya Balan walked out apparently because she found Kamala Das’ life way too hot to handle.

She was replaced by Manju Warrier.  “I don’t know what  kind of interpretation Vidya Balan had in mind. But  it would’ve been very different from what Manju has done. For the  first two days I was unsure of what Manju was doing. But once she settled down in  character she  was everything that I had hoped for. So yes, I am  very happy it was Manju and no other actress playing Kamala Das.”

 What  should the audience expect to see in this bio-pic on the life of one  of literature’s most bohemian artiste?

“A  life well lived brought to life. I hope the audience doesn’t go expecting controversial content, what that may be,” saysKamal.

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