100 years later, Malabar Rebellion fights for screen space

Four films on the theme have been announced back-to-back within two days; actor Prithviraj fires the first salvo

The 1921 Malabar Rebellion has once again caught the creative imagination of Mollywood.

With the rebellion turning 100 next year, four movies have been announced back-to-back within two days.

Three of them will narrate the story of freedom fighter Variyamkunnath Kunhahamed Haji, who was shot dead by the British police at Kottakkunnu, Malappuram, while the fourth film is said to ‘bring out the real truth behind the incident’.

The battle on screen comes almost 32 years after the late filmmaker I.V. Sasi gave his version of the rebellion through the movie 1921 .

Actor Prithviraj Sukumaran fired the first salvo when he announced through social media his titular role in Variyamkunnan on Monday. Ashique Abu and Muhsin Parari will be directing the movie. The creative team was at the receiving end of a social media attack by right-wing radicals on Tuesday after they opposed the portrayal of Variyamkunnath as a Muslim hero against British rule.

Veteran playwright Ibrahim Vengara was the next to announce his movie, The Great Vaariyam Kunnathu . “Besides actors in Malayalam, artists from abroad will be part of the movie. The lead actress will be played by an African artist,” he said.

Filmmaker P.T. Kunju Muhammed joined the bandwagon of directors working on the theme when he announced the title of the movie as Shahid Vaariyamkunnan . “The script will be ready in two months. I hope to start the shooting by the start of next year,” he said.

Mr. Muhammed, elected twice to the Kerala Assembly as a Left Independent candidate, said there was nothing wrong in having four versions of a common theme.

Ali Akbar, filmmaker and fellow-traveller of the BJP, took to Facebook to say that his movie 1921 will portray the real heroes behind the incident. His post also left a hint that the film may not be showing Variyamkunnath Haji as a hero.

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