Prithviraj Sukumaran's film project on Malabar hero sets off hate campaign

The film is timed to coincide with the centenary of the Malabar Rebellion next year

June 22, 2020 10:55 pm | Updated June 23, 2020 12:46 pm IST - PALAKKAD

The announcement of a big-budget film telling the story of Variyamkunnath Kunhahamed Haji, a 1921 Malabar Rebellion hero who was shot dead by the British police at Kottakkunnu, Malappuram, has set off a hate campaign against the proposed film and its crew.

Actor Prithviraj Sukumaran announced on Monday that he would portray Variyamkunnath in the film to be directed by Ashique Abu and Muhsin Parari. The film will be timed to coincide with the centenary of the Malabar Rebellion next year.

Right-wing radicals kicked off a social media campaign soon after.

They launched a blistering attack on Prithviraj-Ashique Abu team, describing Ashique Abu as a ‘Muslim terror sponsor.’

Also read | Century-old records throw new light on Malabar history

Some of the social media posts threatened the crew that their film would never be allowed to be shot if they went about portraying Variyamkunnath as a Muslim hero against the British.

Extensive study

“For long, there have been attempts to give a communal colour to the Malabar Rebellion of 1921 by the right-wing radicals. There is nothing new about it. But with the Sangh forces in power, the virulence of their hatred has increased manifold,” Mr. Parari told The Hindu .

He said they decided to take up the project after an extensive study of history. “We have examined innumerable documents within and outside the country relating to the 1921 Mapila revolt. Our film will be on the basis of recorded history, and not on the basis of the lies that some vested groups spread,” he said.

Mr. Parari said that everyone in the society had an important role to play in setting the land’s legacy straight, as the country was undergoing total saffronisation and communal polarisation.

‘Not anti-Hindu’

I.V. Sasi’s film titled 1921 on the Malabar Rebellion was a big hit in 1988. Scripted by T. Damodaran, the ₹120-crore film had portrayed Variyamkunnath, among other characters, as a Mapila leader in the fight against the British.

“Variyamkunnath has done many good things. We have enough and more proof to establish that he was not anti-Hindu,” said Mangalam Gopinath, veteran Congress leader at Manjeri.

“He [Variyamkunnath] stood up against an empire that ruled a quarter of the world,” Mr. Prithviraj said in a social media post on Monday. “Etched out his own country with an army that waged a never before war against the British. Though history was burned and buried, the legend lived on. The legend of a leader, a soldier, a patriot. A film on the man who became the face of the 1921 Malabar revolution.”

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