Shahi Kabir makes headlines as a scenarist in Malayalam cinema

Scriptwriter Shahi Kabir   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

Shahi Kabir has stirred a hornet’s nest. A civil police officer with the Kerala Police, he never expected his debut as a scenarist to be “so eventful”. Joseph, his poignant, taut narrative about a retired policeman, is garnering good reviews, especially for Joju George’s portrayal of the titular character.

But, on the other hand, the subject it takes up — a medical racket involving organ donation — has sparked off debates and discussions, with the Kerala chapter of the Indian Medical Association expressing their displeasure over the handling of the theme.

Shahi admits that he wasn’t prepared for the backlash from a section of the medical community. “I was confident that the film would be appreciated, but never expected it to court controversy. I want to reiterate that the story is a work of fiction and is not inspired by any real-life incident. I have presented a possibility where the existing system of organ donation could be misused,” he says.

Shahi avers that the movie was not meant to create a scare about Mrithasanjeevani [or Kerala Network for Organ Sharing, a project of the State Government], but an attempt to prevent a crime. “I zeroed in on the topic after I came across several discussions about organ donation on social media and several public platforms. While I am taken aback by how the situation has panned out, I am satisfied that the film has initiated healthy discussions about organ donation,” says Shahi.

Character in focus

He also underscores that the film, directed by M Padmakumar, isn’t just an investigative thriller as it is publicised to be. “It is a character study, about a man who has lost everything that was dear to him, his emotional upheavals and his attempts to come to terms with a bitter past. It is overwhelming to hear many viewers talking about Joseph’s bonding with Peter (his ex-wife’s husband, played by Dileesh Pothen),” he says. Shahi adds that his experience in the police force for the last 12 years has been reflected in many scenes. For example, the scene where Joseph solves a double murder at the crime scene itself with clinical precision.

An ardent movie buff since childhood, Shahi says cinema gave him the much-needed relief from the harsh facets of being a policeman. “When I was shifted from the Armed Reserve (AR) camp to the local station, the people and situations I encountered affected me so much that I began to empathise with them. That triggered depression and anxiety. Cinema liberated me to a great extent. And I had the company of artistically-inclined colleagues,” says the 40-year-old, now posted with district headquarters of Kerala Police in Kottayam.

In 2015, he wrote and directed a short film In? Glorious Life (2015), with policemen at the AR camp working behind and in front of the camera. “The film won six awards and that gave me the confidence to try my luck in the industry,” he says.

The going was tough. The first story he wrote hasn’t seen the light of the day and as for Joseph’s script, he had almost given up hope until a friend’s brother brought him in touch with Joju. “I was told that Joju might listen to the script and he did,” he says.

In between, Shahi worked as an assistant director to Dileesh Pothen in Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum. “Tovino Thomas had introduced me to Dileesh. The script of Joseph was almost done by then and my plan was to direct it myself. But after working in Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, I understood that direction was not my cup of tea. Luckily, I met Pappettan [Padmakumar] and Joseph was on track,” Shahi says.

Joju George in ‘Joseph’

Joju George in ‘Joseph’   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Gushing about Joju’s performance, Shahi observes that he was very clear about how Joseph should be. “Pappettan and Joju did justice to what I had written.”

Shahi has plans for direction. “It will be an offbeat film with a dark subject, although I don’t personally enjoy watching such movies. Such films stress me out!” he signs off.

His inspirations

A huge influence on Shahi has been scenarists Dileesh Nair and Syam Pushkaran, who wrote Salt N’ Pepper. “I am not a writer, but when I developed an interest in writing scripts, I was attracted to low budget projects and their work inspired me,” he says. His favourite film is Onnu Muthal Poojyam Vare. The film that influenced him as a cinebuff is Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s Kandahar.

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Printable version | Jun 20, 2021 11:38:05 AM |

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