Revised ‘Barroz’ script 22 times to Mohanlal’s liking: Jijo Punnoose

Jijo Punnoose and Mohanlal
Jijo had originally conceived the idea of 'Barroz' under the title 'The Ghost Guarding the D'Gama Treasure'. File photos

Mohanlal’s 3D film ‘Barroz’ is one of Mollywood’s most expensive and anticipated projects. The film, which also marks the directorial debut of the superstar, is in its post-production stage though the makers are yet to announce the release date.

Now, a revelation by ‘My Dear Kuttichathan’ director Jijo Punnoose, who was associated with the project as a scriptwriter, has gone viral. According to the filmmaker, he had to rework the script 22 times to the director’s (Mohanlal) and producer’s (Antony Perumbavoor) liking.

In a blog post Jijo wrote that he had originally conceived the screenplay with a girl named Isa as the protagonist, while Barroz was only a secondary character. He had also planned to make it in English and Spanish.

However, Mohanlal, who had arrived at his studio along with filmmaker Rajeevkumar, became interested in the project after the latter suggested the film could be made in Malayalam. “Now, my apprehension was on making the treasure guarding ghost into an Indian (Malayali) when the myth all along the Malabar coast talks about ‘Kappiri Muthappan’ - an African protagonist,” Jijo wrote on his blog.

“But in two days' time Josy Joseph - a Malayalam scholar, tutor in Visual Communications and now wearing the mantle of Research Director at Navodaya - made a convincing backstory on how the Malayali expatriate Barroz came from Malabar to Goa and become (Vasco) D’Gama’s trusted keeper of keys to his mansion,” he said.

Jijo wrote that Mohanlal had expressed his interest to direct the film in 2019 and asked him for his assistance. “Things developed pretty fast after that. Lalumon (Mohanlal) himself came up with many story elements (one such was the firefly metaphor) for the script. I re-wrote and re-wrote … (22 times) polishing the script to my satisfaction and the director’s and producer’s liking, yet standing firm on the fact that it was the girl who is the central character, and Barroz was secondary,” he wrote. But all activities came to a halt due to the pandemic.

“By the time the lockdown eased, Aashirvad Cinemas - the production company of Antony Perumbavoor which also is the producer of Barroz 3D, seemed to have migrated into the OTT filmmaking that became the trend by the fall of 2021. Meant for 3D theatrical release, Barroz seemed a non-viable option. In fact, there were talks of shelving the project! Mr. Antony's message from Hyderabad (the location of the film Bro Daddy) was to dismantle Treasure Cellar Sets at Navodaya Studio here at Kakkanad, Kochi, rather than waste time waiting,” wrote Jijo.

“I think at Lalumon’s behest, in November 2021, after the completion and sales of Aashirwad’s OTT film projects, there was a sudden interest to revive project Barroz. Back then (in November 2021) it was possible to get performers back from abroad; going to places as near as Goa to shoot too was out of the question.

Hence, after extensive discussions, it was decided to change the story, screenplay and performers of the Malayalam film Barroz 3D. So quickly, in December 2021, Lalumon himself took the initiative and along with Rajeevkumar re-wrote the script (scenes, characters and locales) for a viable completion of the film in and around Kochi itself - the major shootings happening within the secure premises of Navodaya Campus where the mostly indoor sets were erected. Personally, I feel it was a prudent move to save the project,” added Jijo.

Mohanlal, ‘in the process of re-writing, fashioned the screenplay and the character of Barroz much like his recent hits - Odiyan, Pulimurugan, Lucifer and Marakkar, so as to satisfy his fan base’.

“With the changed screenplay, the focus of the film was to entertain the Malayali family audience. Lalumon could do it with his knowledge of 350 films (as against my mere seven). In this restructuring, Rajeev took over the role from me in assisting Lalumon,” he wrote.

“When Lalumon called me in the last week of April 2022, I came from Chennai to help him execute the rotating-set scene where Ghost Barroz walks the walls of the Treasure Cellar. That was my only involvement in the revised production of Barroz in Malayalam,” he wrote.

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