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Scripting her success

P.K. AJITH KUMAR

Deedi Damodaran is making her mark as a scriptwriter. After ‘Gulmohar,’ ‘Makal,’ one of the 10 short features that make up ‘Kerala Cafe,’ is her latest.

Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup

Breaking gender stereotypes: Deedi Damodaran

When Deedi Damodaran was filling up the form to join the Writers’ Union of Malayalam Cinema, she had to pause for a second at one column: it asked her to fill in the name of her wife; she wrote her husband’s name.

“Malayalam cinema may still be hesitant to accept a woman scriptwriter, but I haven’t faced any problems because of my gender. More than a woman, the industry sees me as the daughter of T. Damodaran, one of the most prolific scriptwriters of Malayalam cinema,” says Deedi, who has written the screenplay for ‘Makal,’ one of the 10 short features that make up ‘Kerala Café,’ the first film anthology in Malayalam that opens in theatres on October 29.

‘Gulmohar’

This is her second script, having made her debut with ‘Gulmohar’ last year. The film, directed by Jayaraj, was different from the original screenplay she wrote though; it was so different that she brought out the script as a book. And Jayaraj was gracious enough to say at the book’s release in Kozhikode that the book was better than his film.

“I can understand why Jayaraj made the film the way he did; Malayalam cinema couldn’t have stomached the liberties I took with the concept of gender in my original screenplay. And I had to bring the book out because ‘Gulmohar’ the film, deviated from my thoughts on the way women are portrayed in our films,” Deedi says.

She says she has always felt uneasy about the gender stereotypes in our films. “You often see the hero yelling at the woman: “Don’t talk, you are just a woman” in the movie. It is as if women are not allowed to talk, think or show anger, while men are not supposed to cry, even when they really want to.

“Once I had a discussion with Mammootty about the oppression of women in Malayalam cinema. He retorted: “Then why don’t you write a script yourself?” I hadn’t thought of writing a script till that moment, though I had grown up taking down copies of the scripts my father wrote,” says Deedi.

Coming back to ‘Kerala Café,’ she says Revathy, who has directed ‘Makal,’ had asked her to write the screenplay for a full-length feature film a couple of years ago.

“But that didn’t work out. ‘Makal’ is about a working class woman and her ambitions for her daughter. Revathy and I wanted to create a film that was distinctly different from the other nine films in the anthology,” Deedi elaborates.

About her celebrated father, she says it was he, not her mother, who advised her to be a strong woman. “While my mother told me that a woman should yield to her husband, my father said a woman should fight for her own identity. As for my father’s 60-odd films, ‘Innallenkil Nale’ is my favourite; I admire the way he portrayed so many female characters with compassion and depth,” she says.

Deedi’s next film will be directed by Sohanlal and it will have Jayasurya in the lead. “The film deals with terrorism, and its shooting will begin early next year,” says Deedi.

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