As filmmaker T.K. Rajeev Kumar's ‘Rathinirvedam' reaches a world-wide audience, the director talks about the remaking of a film that redefined Malayalam cinema in the early eighties.

Remakes of popular films are always fraught with risks. Time and again we have seen remakes fail in reincarnating the characters that viewers have cherished in their hearts for long. And when it is a remake of a cult film, the challenges are even greater. But greater the challenge, greater is the enthusiasm for a director and his team to recreate the charm of a landmark film and still have something innovative for young viewers. And that is the task undertaken by T.K. Rajeev Kumar and Co. who have remade the cult film ‘Rathinirvedam' under the banner of Suresh Kumar's Revathy Kalamandhir.

Scripted by Padmarajan and directed by Bharathan, ‘Rathinirvedam,' a coming-of-age movie that starred Jayabharathi in the title role of Rathi, became a watershed in Malayalam cinema when it was first released in 1978. “It was its cult status that made me say no when Suresh offered me the film. But he went ahead and confidently bought the rights of the film. Later, I happened to read a copy of Padmarajan's original handwritten screenplay. The more I read it, the more fascinating it was to delve into the subtext of the screenplay and the characters that Padmarajan had created,” says Rajeev.

Confident decision

Rajeev's fascination turned into a conviction that he could successfully retell the story of a teenager's eventful summer vacation and his infatuation for a much older woman. The most important decision was to relocate the movie to the location that Padmarajan had set the story in. The director feels that this was an important step in the development of the movie. It is also a place and ambience that Rajeev is completely familiar with as he hails from Alappuzha.

"We moved the locale from Nelliyampathy to Haripad. The rustic ambience, sprawling houses with large compounds, and lack of formalities amongst neighbours play a significant part in the way the relationship between Rathi and Pappu develops. We have explored the emotional complexities of such a relationship and it is more about a natural progression of a bond that unexpectedly takes a different turn," explains Rajeev. As part of the decision to accentuate the emotional canvas of the main characters and make the evolution of the relationship more natural and authentic, Rajeev's Pappu is a couple of years older than the one essayed by Krishnachandran in the previous version.

“The challenge was to see how different a film I could visualise from the older version of the film. I think I have succeeded in presenting a captivating narrative that stays true to the script and yet is not a mere clone of the previous edition. That was possible because of a talented cast and crew,” says Rajeev.

Set in 1978, the film brings alive that period in a village household and documents a way of life and culture that have been swept away by winds of change. “The movie has a universal theme; we have also tried to document the social mores of a time gone by and that should be of interest to different generations,” feels Rajeev.

The cast

Suresh and Rajeev had no doubts that Shwetha Menon was the best person to enact Rathi. “She has evolved as an actor and is a thorough professional who has no confusion about her reel life seeping into her real life or her on-screen characters shadowing or influencing Shwetha, the woman,” As a result, she has redefined the iconic role and given it a new depth and perspective,” praises the director.

And Pappu is being played by newcomer Sreejith. Rajeev feels he has done justice to the character. Rajeev points out that as far as the cast and crew of the film were concerned, they were working on a new film. Suresh and Rajeev were amongst the few persons who had seen the previous ‘Rathinirvedam.' Maniyan Pillai Raju plays the role essayed by Adoor Bhasi while Pakru enacts the character played by Bahadur. KPAC Lalitha is the only one in the cast who had acted in the previous version of the film three decades ago.

Songs and background score for the movie have been composed by M. Jayachandran, who hits a century in music direction with ‘Rathinirvedam.' Couple of the songs, the lyrics of which have been written by Murugan Kattakad, have already made it to the top of the charts and given curious viewers a sneak peek of the film.

Dream come true

For Rajeev, the film assumes significance because it is Padmarajan's script, Years ago, just after his successful debut as a director with Chanakyan,' he was all set to direct his second flick; based on a script written by P. Balachandran; a film that blurred the border between fact and fiction. “It was about an yakshi' and a mannequin in a jewellery shop that comes alive in a freak incident and develops a deep bond with the owner. We were all set for the film and were to travel to Chennai for the song recording. It was to have special effects and would perhaps have gone into Mollywood history as a landmark film,” recalls Rajeev, his enthusiasm still evident. That was when cinematographer Venu met them in Kottayam to inform the team that Padmrajan was also making a similar film (Njan Gandharvan'). “The only difference was that the supernatural being in his film was a man,” recalls Rajeev. Finally, Rajeev decided to shelve the movie. But Padmarajan was keen on meeting Rajeev and the duo met in Thiruvananthapuram. “Padmarajan understood my disappointment and dilemma. He consoled me saying that I was young and would get opportunities to do more such films. As I was about to leave, Padmarajan promised me that he would do a film only after he wrote a script for me. It was a dream come true for me.” However that was never to be as Padmarajan passed away soon after the release of Njan Gandharvan.' A few months later, Poojapura Radhakrishnan told Rajeev that Radhalakshmi, Padmarajan's wife, had remarked that Padmarajan had confided in her his desire to write a script for Rajeev. She invited Rajeev to choose any of the late director's stories to turn into a film as Padmarajan had felt that he was indebted to Rajeev. With the release of Rathinirvedam,' looks like the debt has been repaid in full.