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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Marakkar Arabikadalinte Simham: 25 years in the making, Mohanlal film competed with a Mammootty-starrer on same subject

Mohanlal's dream project Marakkar Arabikadalinte Simham went on the floors at a grand set built at Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad in December 2018.

Written by Manoj Kumar R | Bengaluru |
Updated: December 2, 2021 8:45:15 am
Marakkar Lion Of The Arabian Sea MohanlalMarakkar Arabikadalinte Simham stars Mohanlal in the lead role. (Photo: Mohanlal/Instagram)

Like the violent waters of the Arabian sea as seen in the trailer, the production of Marakkar Arabikadalinte Simham had to brave years of stormy challenges and uncertainties to reach where it is today. Despite big names such as Mohanlal and Priyadarshan attached to the project, it took more than 25 years to come to fruition.

The idea to make a movie on the battles of one of the highly decorated naval commanders belonging to the Marakkar clan, Kunjali Marakkar IV caught the imagination of Mohanlal, Priyadarshan and late screenwriter T. Damodaran when the trio was making the period drama Kaalapani in 1996. However, the project never took off as the filmmakers were unable to find the producers who would risk a fortune on it. The idea, however, stayed in the hearts of the filmmakers.

Everything changed in the last few years. The success of the Baahubali franchise may have had a role to play in encouraging filmmakers to go for broke in making massive costume dramas. The conducive environment for valiant stories of bygone ears rekindled Priyadarshan’s passion for the project again. Also with Mohanlal’s movies breaching the Rs 200-crore mark at the worldwide box office with great ease, it shouldn’t have been difficult for Priyadarshan to find a producer who would invest Rs 100 crore to realise his long-held dream.

Enter, Antony Perumbavoor, the close confidant of Mohanlal. He has bankrolled the epic movie under his home production banner Aashirvad Cinemas. But, there was another hurdle in Priyadarshan’s way.

Filmmaker Santosh Sivan was also putting together a cast and crew to make the movie on Kunjali Marakkar IV. Santosh announced that he would make the movie with Mammootty for August Cinemas banners.

Marakkar Arabikadalinte Simham is directed by Priyadarshan.

The movies of Mohanlal and Mammootty clashing at the box office is quite common. But, the two superstars playing the same characters in two different movies was unprecedented, not only in Malayalam cinema but in the entire Indian film industry. In the battle of nerves, camps were formed and war bugle was sounded.

The Santosh Sivan camp and the Priyadarshan camp started promoting their respective projects on social media. However, after a few months of back and forth announcements, the Priyadarshan camp prevailed.

Marakkar Arabikadalinte Simham went on the floors at a grand set built at Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad in December 2018. And thanks to the years of planning and contemplation that went into designing this project, Priyadarshan was able to complete the shoot of such a massive project with an all-star cast in about 102 days. The filmmakers then spent a year working on the film’s special effects.

The post-production also went without a hitch and the movie was ready to hit the screens worldwide on March 26, 2020. And then the Covid-19 pandemic happened.

The outbreak of the new virus brought the world to a standstill. Just two days before its release date, a nationwide lockdown was imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus in India. Even though the filmmakers were disappointed by the events that were beyond their control, in part they were relieved that the lockdown came into force before the film’s release. “I was lucky. Just imagine, if I had released the film and the lockdown was imposed one week after that, it would have been a disaster. Thank god that did not happen,” Priyadarshan had told earlier.

For multiple reasons, the filmmakers were unable to release the film in theatres even after the blanket lockdown was lifted. One of the main factors was the growing cases of infections in Kerala during the second wave of Covid-19. The Kerala government imposed strict restrictions in public places, including keeping the movie theatres closed even after cinemas were allowed to function in most states. The filmmakers kept announcing new release dates and the pandemic kept forcing them to postpone.

Mohanlal on the sets of his upcoming film Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham Mohanlal on the sets of his upcoming film Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham. (Source: Suniel Shetty/Instagram)

In the meantime, Marakkar Arabikadalinte Simham went on to bag three National Awards and two Kerala State Film Awards. Earlier this year, on the sidelines of the National Awards ceremony in Delhi, Antony Perumbavoor delivered a shocker by announcing he was considering options to release the movie directly on an OTT platform.

“I can’t wait any longer. I am thinking about whether to release it in theatres or on OTT. There are bigger films than Marakkar waiting to be made,” Antony told the media sending shock waves across film distributors and exhibitors in Kerala.

After suffering months of loss, the stakeholders of Malayalam cinema were betting on Marakkar to bring the crowd back to cinema halls. However, just in time, the Kerala government intervened and convinced Antony to stick to the traditional theatrical window.

Marakkar Arabikadalinte Simham is all set to open in cinemas on December 2.

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