P.K. AJITH KUMAR
‘Pazhassi Raja’ will hit theatres soon.
I wanted to make a film that would do Malayalam cinema proud.
Freedom fighter: Mammootty as Pazhassi Raja.
The wait will soon be over. ‘Pazhassi Raja,’ veteran director Hariharan’s labour of love will open in 500 cinemas across the country. With a budget of over Rs. 25 crores, it is the most expensive Malayalam film ever made.
The movie, which has been dubbed into Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, features a stellar cast that includes Mammootty, Sarath Kumar and Suman. Among its accomplished technicians is Oscar-winner Resul Pookutty.
Expectations are indeed sky high about the film. Not just because of the cost, the cast and the crew. ‘Pazhassi Raja’ also sees the coming together, after nearly two decades, of Hariharan, Mammootty and litterateur and scriptwriter M.T. Vasudevan Nair. The last film they did together was ‘Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha,’ a commercial hit that won critical acclaim too.
“I know people will compare it with ‘Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha,’ but ‘Pazhassi Raja’ is more ambitious, made on a larger canvas and more challenging than any other film I have directed over the last three decades,” says Hariharan.
Tale of a king
He admits that ‘Pazhassi Raja,’ which chronicles the tale of the king who dared to take on the British in the late 18th century, has kept the audience waiting for long. It has been in the making for more than two years and its date of release was postponed more than once.
“Much of the delay in the making of the film could not be helped. This was not the kind of film you could shoot in a hurry; you needed perfect weather and shooting war sequences in thick forests, involving hundreds of soldiers, is bound to take time. I did not want to make any compromises.
“When I decided to make a film based on the life of Pazhassi Raja, I wanted to make a film that would do Malayalam cinema proud. It is, in fact, a film that Indian cinema can show the world proudly; there aren’t many war movies in India. One can enjoy watching ‘Pazhassi Raja’ the way one does Hollywood films like ‘The Patriot,” he says.
According to Hariharan, the film would simply have not been made if he had not found a producer like Gokulam Gopalan. Hariharan reveals a lot of work had gone into the film long before its shooting began in 2007.
“I had consulted artist Namboodiri to finalise the costumes of the characters. And I had spent months hunting for locations. I had also taken special care while casting. Mammootty was the obvious choice to play Pazhassi Raja; his physique, features and voice are perfect to play a warrior king. But it wasn’t easy casting the others.
Hunt for Kaitheri Makkom
“I took some time to find the right actor to play Kaitheri Makkom, Pazhassi’s wife.
“I had even gone to Mumbai, but could not find someone who would look like a queen from Kerala. Then, I saw Kaniha in Chennai and could see Makkom in her,” he explains.
Sarath Kumar, Suman and Manoj K. Jayan play important roles in the movie. Sarath plays Edachena Kunkan, Pazhassi’s lieutenant while Suman dons the role of Pazhayamveedan Chanthu, one of Pazhassi’s rivals.
‘Pazhassi Raja’ also stars Jagathy Sreekumar, Suresh Krishna, Padmapriya and Saikumar and Linda Arsenio, who was seen in ‘Kabul Express.’
The film’s music has been scored by Ilayaraja, who has used the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra.
Hariharan hopes ‘Pazhassi Raja’ will help the world take note of the valiant king’s contribution towards India’s freedom movement.
“Pazhassi raised his voice against the British long before the ‘Sepoy Mutiny’ broke out in 1857, but he never got his due. The film focusses on his battles against the British, with the help of a tribal force,” he explains.
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