The Thalassery Cricket Stadium is abuzz with activity on a January morning. Syed Kirmani, who kept wicket while India won the cricket World Cup in 1983, and J.K. Mahendra, former Ranji Trophy captain of Kerala, are on the grounds. Although they have been to Thalassery before to play cricket, this time around they have come to act in ‘Mazhavillinattam Vare,' which marks lyricist Kaithapram Damodaran Namboothiri's debut as a director.
“We will be shooting a couple of scenes at the ground today,” says Kaithapram, as Kirmani and Mahendra rehearse their scene. Youngsters, both male and female, dressed as cricketers, also star in the scene. Cinematographer Gunasekaran checks the two cameras that will capture the action. He seems pleased with the result.
The scene depicts Kirmani providing cricketing tips to the youngsters. “Kirmani plays himself in the movie. He has been invited to a cricket camp in Thalassery,” says Kaithapram, as he checks the scenes on the monitor.
The scene is canned and the crew moves on to the next scene featuring the film's protagonist Abbas Hassan, a Canadian-born, Paris-raised, London-based Pakistani singer. He plays Yassin Mubarak Azad, a Pakistani cricketer who comes to Kerala on a mission. He is in Thalassery to conduct a camp for a team of young Kerala cricketers. But that is not the only reason he is in town.
‘Mazhavillinattam Vare' is about that young Pakistani cricketer's life-changing journey, says the director.
Hassan, however, was not the first choice for the role, says Kaithapram. He had signed pace bowler Mohammad Asif. However, as the Pakistani cricketer got caught in a scandal, he was replaced.
“Then I signed Pakistan opening batsman Mohammad Hafeez. We had even shot some scenes with him. However, he had to return as he had to play for the Pakistan national team. We were already behind schedule, so I decided to replace him with Hassan, who has proved an excellent choice,” says Kaithapram. Soon, Saikumar and Salim Kumar enter the ground and wait for their turn in front of the camera.
“Saikumar plays a Theyyam artiste and scholar, while Salim plays a cook at the camp,” explains Kaithapram, shortly after completing the scene involving Abbas, Kirmani and Mahendra practising in the nets.
Abbas says the shooting has been an enjoyable experience. “This is my first ever film and it has been fun. When I got the offer to act through a Keralite friend of mine in London, I thought I should give it a try. Malayalam is not an easy language, but director Kaithapram and the others have been extremely helpful, so I am getting along nicely,” he smiles.
Kirmani too is enjoying his role as an actor. “Although this is my first film in Malayalam, I have acted in Bollywood and Kannada films before. I became an actor because I wanted to see how my head would look on the big screen,” he chuckles, running his fingers over his famous, bald head.
Archana Kavi is the leading lady in the film. She plays Rabia, a college student who is an ardent admirer of the Pakistani cricketer. Madhu and Nedumudi Venu also play prominent roles in the movie.
Kaithapram says the film is a musical. He has written the songs himself, while the music is by Deepankuran, his son.
“The film will feature six songs. Leading singers like Yesudas, Chithra and Udit Narayan have rendered the songs. There are melodies as well as fast numbers,” says the director.
‘Mazhivillinattam Vare' is produced by A. Mukundan, under the banner of Valluvan Kadavu Creations and will be distributed by Gokulam Release. T.A. Razaq has written the script based on the story by Kaithapram. Stills are by Jayaprakash Payyannur. The film will reach cinemas in April.