Kaliyachan, Farook Abdulrahiman’s award-winning film, is based on P. Kunhiraman Nair’s celebrated poem.
It took Farook Abdulrahiman 12 long years to translate his dream into celluloid. But the wait has certainly proved worthy. Kaliyachan, his labour of love, fetched him the State Award for the best debutant director; the film also won awards for Manoj K. Jayan (second best actor) and Bijibal (best background music).
The film is based on P. Kunhiraman Nair’s celebrated poem ‘Kaliyachan’. “I was fascinated by Kunhiraman as I grew up in Palakkad. He has been my favourite poet and his ‘Kaliyachan’ has stayed with me ever since I first read it during my pre-degree days,” says Farook.
His original plan was to make it into a tele-film, a format he knows well, having done so many of them for Dooordarshan, including the State Award winning ‘Swathanthryathinte Chirakadiyochakal’ (2000). “But it was actor Vijayaraghavan who told me that I should make ‘Kaliyachan’ a feature film,” Farook says.
But it was easier said than done. “No producer was willing to finance the film because of the subject, which didn’t have commercial appeal, and also because of my background which was more of television than films. I worked as an assistant director in films, but I had done most of my work for television. I had assisted the legendary director P.N. Menon, when he made the serial ‘Ithalukal’. I directed ‘Smarakashilakal’ and ‘Thunchathu Acharyan’,” he says.
The script of Kaliyachan had been finished more than 10 years ago, when National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) stepped in to produce the film. “I had wanted Manoj K. Jayan to play the protagonist – Kathakali actor Kunhiraman – right from the time I conceived the film. Only he could do the role the way I wanted it to be done. I am glad that he won the State award,” says Farook.
Kaliyachan is a lot more than an adaptation of Kunhiraman’s poem, he adds.
“I have always felt that the poem has autobiographical elements and we can see the poet himself in the protagonist. I have also tried to explore Kunhiraman’s relation with women and the river Nila. I created the character of Devu to represent several women who had come into Kunhiraman’s life at different points of time,” he elaborates.
But he had a tough time finding an artiste to essay Devu, an independent woman who spoke her mind. “She is actually the female version of the poet. A lecturer at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, told me about Tirtha Murbadkar and I could see Devu in her. She has given a brilliant performance,” he says.
Koodiyattam maestro Kalamandalam Sivan Namboodiri too has done an outstanding job as Asan, Kunhiraman’s guru. “I told him that had the State Award for the best supporting actor not been discontinued, he would have got it. I am happy that Bijibal has been recognised for the superb background music he has provided. The sound design of Ganesh Marar too was noticed when I screened Kaliyachan at the film bazaar of the film fete in Goa,” he says.
Kaliyachan is not the first film based on Kunhiraman; P. Balachandran’s Ivan Megharoopan was.
“To be honest, I was a bit upset when I read in the newspapers about the announcement of that film; I had invested so much emotionally on Kunhiraman by that time. But I was confident that my film would be entirely different from it. When I saw Ivan Megharoopan, I found that my confidence wasn’t misplaced,” says Farook.
Kaliyachan is now getting ready for theatrical release.