FOR KAMAL, 59, director of the International Film Festival of Kerala that ended last week, controversy is not new. What upsets the Left-leaning director is that Sangh Parivar activists refer to him by his given name — Kamaluddin Mohammed Majeed — whenever there is a controversy.
The latest run-in has been over playing the national anthem at the film festival. Police picked up a dozen delegates who had failed to stand up when the anthem was being played before a show. “We asked all delegates to stand up for the national anthem. But the police action at the theatre was unfortunate. Police didn’t inform us about the move,” said Kamal, appointed chairman of festival organiser Kerala State Chalachithra Academy by the LDF government.
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The BJP youth wing Yuva Morcha targeted Kamal, advising that “Kamaluddin Mohammed Majeed” move to Pakistan.
“Over the years in the film industry, I have been known as Kamal,” said the popular director, who has made mainstream Malayalam films for three decades now. “Even my parents used to call me Kamal. I don’t remember ever being called Kamaluddin at home. I don’t know what they [BJP] meant by calling me Kamaluddhin. Why cant they address me as Kamal even if they want to criticise me?”
His last run-in with the BJP had come during the assembly elections, when he was campaigning for the CPM at Manalur in Thrissur. He had attacked actor Suresh Gopi who had become a Rajya Sabha member sent by the BJP. “I am ashamed of Gopi who has become a follower of Narendra Modi to become an MP,” he had said. The following day, posters came up near Kamal’s house at Kodungallor in Thrissur, calling him Kamaluddin, describing him as a religious extremist, with the photo gralanded with chappals.
“As an artiste, I don’t want to live with a Muslim identity. I faced criticism that I am anti-Muslim when I directed Gadamma (2011), which told the story of Indian women working as household help in the Middle East.”
Kamal, who has directed 43 films, fears further trouble ahead of his next venture, Aami, a biopic on the late writer Kamaladas, who took the name Kamala Surayya after embracing Islam. Vidya Balan will play Surayya. “I can already sense trouble. It has to be seen what extent protests will go to. The film will also debate incidents and persons involved in her religious conversion,” he said.
Kamal, winner of three national awards and seven state awards, has been credited with some of the best films in the Malayalam industry. These include Kakkothikavile Appooppan Thadikal, Ulladakkam, Celluloid and Perumazhakkalam (2004), national award winner for best film on social issues.