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Malayalam film director Kamal is not a worried man even though his biopic on the very fiery author-poet Kamala Das has ignited debates and protests, as well as attracted an attempt to stop the film legally for propagating love jihad — a charge that Kamal vehemently denies.
Aami is now ready to hit the screens on Friday, after the Kerala High Court quashed a petition against its release. Kamal wonders how the movie 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,” said Kamal.
He said 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 Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat. 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”, the director said.
“In fact, it was doing just the opposite. Is there any remedy or rectification for filmmakers who suffer through such baseless protests,” Kamal asked. 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 Kamala Das’s life was controversial and would create some sparks.
“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 Friday. The director has faith in the audience.
“In Kerala, the movie-going 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 had walked out of it. She was replaced by Manju Warrier.
“I don’t know what kind of interpretation Vidya Balan had in mind. But it would have 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.”
When asked what should the audience expect to see in this biopic on the life of one of literature’s most bohemian artists, the director said, “A life well-lived brought to life. I hope the audience doesn’t go expecting controversial content, what that may be.”