It's low budget time

A new trend.

A new trend.  

Without much fanfare and the usual newspaper advertisement blitz Jayaraj's `Kannaki' is running in more than 10 theatres in the State. The houses are not packed, but the movie is pulling a decent crowd at all the centres it has been released. All in all, a quiet week indeed.

Apart from highlighting the topical relevance of the celebrated classical theme from Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, Kannaki brings to the fore some of the underlying issues that are being discussed, though not very seriously, in filmdom. The release of this low-budget movie (production cost is roughly Rs. 35 lakhs, which is very low by the current standards) has come at a time when the Malayalam film industry is facing a crisis.

Kannaki has a poser. Should the industry continue in the same fashion, or should such low-budget films with classical themes be given a serious thought? It's high time the industry changed its attitude, says Jayaraj.

The interaction Jayaraj had with the mediapersons of Kochi the other day, along with Lal and Siddique, both cine actors, wasn't solely aimed at promoting his latest film, which is produced by his brother Mahesh Raj. He, like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, knows how to sell his product. But lifting the market for the films of the Kannaki genre to a mainstream level, where they enjoy not only acceptability but commercial benefits too, appeared to be their aim.

Already a producer, including that of the superhit Thengasipattanom, Lal showed no qualms in admitting that he lacked experience outside the world of ``comedy and popular movies''. But he is willing to plumb for more such low-budget movies which deal with serious subjects. ``This seems to be the only way out now,'' he said.

So is Siddique, who said the time has come when actors themselves have to invest money to salvage the film industry. Showing the instances of Mohanlal spending great amounts of money for `Vanaprastham' and Mammootty acting in `Ambedkar' virtually accepting no remuneration _ ``you must ask Mammootty how much he got,'' he said _ Siddique exemplified the sentiment of the actor community.

Once again, by taking recourse to the Elizabethan stage, Jayaraj reminds us of the immortality of Shakespearean characters. This time it is but Antony and Cleopatra, set in a village on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border.

Jayaraj has portrayed the universality of war with the theme of cockfighting. An excellent cockfighter, Lal transforms Shakespeare's Antony into Jayaraj's Manikyan with exceptional elan. Caesar's counterpart, Choma, is portrayed by Siddique, whose stunning performance has already won accolades within the first week of Kannaki's release.

And the heroine, Kannaki, played by Nandita Das, carries the mysterious, deadly beauty of Cleopatra.

But the innocence of her beauty is discovered only by Manikyan, who is being employed by Choma for the latter's benefit.

The other notable characters in the film are Manoj K. Jayan (playing Pompey), Cochin Haneefa (servant), and Geetha Mohandas (playing Octavio).

By Abdul Latheef Naha

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