Interview K.P. Ramanunni, author of 'Sufi Paranja Katha', talks about how he adapted his novel for the film.Lekshmy Rajeev

‘Sufi Paranja Katha,' the film by National award-winning director Priyanandanan, is based on a novel of the same name by K.P. Ramanunni, who also wrote the dialogue and script of the film.

Ramanunni deals with a complex theme in this debut novel of his that was published 20 years ago. A theme that was influenced by his childhood in Ponnani. “I lost my father when I was three and was attached to my mother. We were close to our neighbours who were Muslims. My friend Abdul Khayoom's father was fond of me. Eventually, I realised that the inner core of religion is spirituality,” says Ramanunni.

The film narrates the story of Karthi (played by Sharbani Mukherjee), an upper-class Hindu woman from a feudal background who marries Mammooty, a Muslim (played by Prakash Bare). Karthi converts to Islam, but is unable to forget her cultural and spiritual roots. “The film deals with the nuances and subtleties of spiritualism and the need for a genuine spiritual search.

Emotional thread

Love in all its forms heightens the emotional thread that runs through the novel. Trying to make such a novel into a film calls for a different kind of talent, which Ramanunni has proved to be adept at with his screenplay. Obviously this is not a simple love story with a ‘happily-ever-after' ending. The film examines the familial, societal and religious expectations and demands that create fissures in the emotional ties between the man and the woman. Although Mammooty and Karthi try to bridge their differences, in the end, their different backgrounds prove to be too big a divide to ford. The film also laments the passing away of an age of innocence when there was more of communal amity; when neighbours professing different faiths lived in harmony.

“I have not deviated much from the novel and wrote the script with a lot of care as it dealt with a sensitive theme. In order to enhance cinematic effects, only one small portion of the story has been done away with and the anti-colonial sentiments have been highlighted. The dialogues of the film celebrate the co-existence of different religions,” says Ramanunni.

“I had no intention of making the novel into a film. But producer, Kalam Karasseri, has wanted to do a film based on it for years now. The novel has been translated into eight languages, including English and French, and won both the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award and the Edasseri Award,” reminisces the author.

There have been films made on books, but typically, the process of imagining and interpreting as a reader is a creative process that is distinctly different from viewing a film. “Cinema is often an art of precision and detail, and it can't contain the multitude of emotions a novel can. But I believe I could do justice to the novel in the screen version too. I also had a hand in selecting the actors,” beams the contented novelist and screenwriter. “Sometimes a movie comes along that is actually better than the book. It's rare, but it does happen,” he adds.

The written word, on which the reader meditates, becomes the visual text that haunts the viewer.