Veteran filmmaker K.P. Kumaran is making a documentary on litterateur M.T. Vasudevan Nair for the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts.

No writer has influenced the Malayali psyche the way M.T. Vasudevan Nair has – with the books he wrote, with the movies he made. He has been charming Malayalis for more than half-a-century. What, then, is his magic?

Seasoned director K.P. Kumaran is trying to find that out with his new documentary on the master storyteller. He has been shooting the film at various places associated with M.T., such as Kudallur, Thunchan Parambu (Tirur), Kozhikode and Ottappalam. The film is produced by Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA), a Central-Government funded arts organisation, in its series titled ‘Great Masters’, which has previously documented lives of personalities like Bhisham Sahani, K.S. Karanth and B.C. Sanyal. M.T. is the first Malayali being featured in the series.

“I am trying to find the roots of M.T. with this film. I want to know how M.T. has become the literary icon that he is,” Kumaran told Friday Review at Kozhikode, shortly after shooting at the Mathrubhumi office, where M.T. had made major contributions as an editor of periodicals.

“M.T. the editor is also one of the focal points of the film. He has played a significant role as a journalist and that is something we tend to forget when we analyse M.T.,” Kumaran says.

He adds it has been a fascinating experience listening to M.T. while shooting his life. “He told me about his childhood and how education in his village, back when he was a child, meant just being able to read Ramayana in the Malayalam month of Karkidakam. I wanted to know how a remarkable writer emerged from such a village,” says Kumaran.

Kumaran, who has made critically acclaimed films like Athithi and Rugmini, says he has admired M.T.’s several films. “I still remember being impressed with his first film Nirmalyam. My own debut feature film, Athithi, was released a year later, in 1974. P.J. Antony was a common factor in both the films; yes, Antony’s performance in Nirmalyam was a reason I cast him in Athithi,” he says.

Among M.T.’s scripts, Kumaran is particularly fond of Amruthamgamaya and Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha. “But I did wonder why M.T. was a bit unsympathetic towards women while writing Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha, which was such a great screenplay,” says Kumaran, whose last film was Akashagopuram, which had Mohanlal in the lead and Nithya Menen making her debut. Coming back to the M.T. documentary he says it is going to be an exhaustive one. “It is going to be archived by IGNCA, so it has to delve deep into M.T., the artiste. But it is not just about M.T.; it is also about the places he grew up in, as well as the Bharathapuzha river, which is close to his heart,” he elaborates.

Besides M.T., only artist Namboothiri will appear in the film. “I will show Namboothiri drawing the famous sketches he did for Randamoozham, M.T.’s most celebrated work. The film will mainly be a series of monologues by M.T.,” says Kumaran.

How does he find shooting M.T.? “I am enjoying it; I have known M.T. for more than 40 years. And listening to him while shooting has been an enriching experience,” he says.