The Madhavikutty biopic promises to be as controversial as the outspoken writer. Director Kamal stirred a hornet’s nest when he said his first choice as the leading lady, Vidya Balan, would have bought up more sensuality to the movie.
Kamal zeroed in on Manju Warrier to play Madhavikutty after Vidya Balan opted out of the project without citing any reason.
The director talks to Onmanorama on the movie project and the latest controversy it courted.
How do you feel when Aami is set for release?
Any movie demands a lot of hard work. Aami was particularly tough because of the subject. I have a Madhavikutty in mind. Each one of her readers would have a Madhavikutty in their minds. When you make a movie on her, you have go beyond what you have read. Her life had to be studied. That’s how the movie required so much preparation. I am satisfied now.
The movie has a Madhavikutty like in any Malayali’s imagination. Everyone reads Madhavikutty through his own point of view. As a director, I approached the subject from my point of view. The movie has the Madhavikutty as I understood her. Once the movie is finished it belongs to the audience, not to the director. I have done Aami as good as I can. I am completely satisfied with my work. The movie belongs to the audience now. Let them rate it.
‘Controversies regarding Aami’ refuses to die down.
This is an age when people start commenting on a movie even before the posters are out. Social media is full of people who dish out their prejudices. The movie may be nothing like we had expected. So watch it without prejudices. Controversies follow the project from different quarters. Once they start they will go on. They can mislead people. Religious fundamentalists were the first ones to target the movie. They harbored a lot of notions about the movie. They still do. They will still have them even after the movie is released.
About Manju Warrier’s transformation to Aami?
I believe that Aami was the most challenging role for Manju Warrier. Social media was abuzz with debates on whether Manju was suited for the role. That was her biggest challenge. I had total faith in her as an actress. The only thing was if she resembled Madhavikutty. She did not have to. We all have a mental picture of Madhavikutty. Manju matches that picture 90 percent. That is my belief. That is what I gather from the feedback from the day the first poster was released. An actor has to play the role to the satisfaction of the director. The director and the actor will keep on trying until that happens. That is what I did and I am happy. The audience have to decide now.
What prevented your attempts to feature a new face?
You do not have to insist on a new face. That is a good thing but that did not happen in time. We had good actresses with us. So I thought of them. The first choice was Vidya Balan. When she backtracked I had to choose another one. I thought Manju would be a good choice.
Is it still difficult to portray sexuality in Malayalam movies? The latest controversy about ‘Aami’ is about sexuality.
Definitely not. Gone are the days. We do not have to be afraid of sexuality in movies. The controversy arose because my interview was misunderstood. Whatever I said was changed while writing or editing. When they put two of my statements, it had another meaning. Honestly I am afraid of telephone interviews now.
The rumors doing the round say that Kamal’s Madhavikutty is a naive village beauty because Vidya Balan opted out. Let me tell you what I really said.
A movie about Madhavikutty would be incomplete without her concepts about sexuality and her outspoken comments. You cannot do such a movie. I cannot do it as her reader. The recent controversy started with a question on how the movie deals with Madhavikutti’s ideas of sexuality. The interview veered to skin show. The question was whether Vidya Balan would have made such a situation easier.
I said I would have more freedom as a director to shoot the sexually suggestive scenes with Vidya Balan as the actress. I do not live in an ideal world. Aami is a movie that will touch upon the writer’s views on sexuality.
Vidya Balan has acted in ‘Dirty Picture’ a movie based on the life of Silk Smitha. Audience are used to her persona. Had I worked with her, I would have received more freedom to shoot the movie in a way that required exposing. But Manju Warrier does not have such an image in Kerala. So I had my limitations in shooting.
Manju can play a sexually loaded scene even without exposing. Kannezhuthi Pottum Thottu is a good example. Manju’s character was similar to that of Jayabharathi in Itha Ivide Vare. Manju has done such a role without compromising the emotional element. Manju has expressed Madhavikutty’s emotional world with all its complexities. You can see an Aami who speaks the Thrissur dialect and an Aami who has strong views on the world. Manju has done justice to both the phases.