'We didn’t want Antony to go bankrupt': Priyadarshan on Marakkar's OTT release

Mohanlal-starrer Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham has become a topic of conversation after producer Antony Perumbavoor announced that the much-anticipated movie would have an OTT release. Meanwhile, the movie’s director Priyadarshan, who had finally made his magnum opus after conceptualising and planning for it almost two-and-a-half decades, opens up to Manorama about the controversy.

Priyadarshan said that he had agreed fo an OTT release for the film as he didn’t wish to push Antony back to his former phase as a struggler. He also claimed that Marakkar was too big a movie for the Malayalam cinema industry.

“This movie was a dream that Mohanlal and I had been nurturing for the last 25 years. When we saw last time, at the dubbing studio, we promised that we would watch the movie, sitting next to each other, at a theatre in Thiruvananthapuram,” says the veteran filmmaker.

Are you supporting Antony’s decision to release the movie via OTT?

Antony is someone who has reached here from nothing. He has worked really hard to earn all these. He had kept his own life at stake when he agreed to bankroll 'Marakkar'. He did that, trusting Mohanlal and me. Both of us didn’t receive a single penny as remuneration for this movie. We agreed to have our share when the movie makes profit. Antony has been paying huge amount of money as monthly interests for the last two years. Had one of us been adamant about releasing the movie in the theatres, it would have pushed Antony into great financial trouble. However, we wouldn’t do that. Mohanlal and I do not wish to celebrate any success after leaving Antony to bear the losses. No one would be more pained than Mohanlal, Antony and myself as this film cannot be watched on the big screen.

The theatre owners claim that Antony didn’t cooperate..

Marakkar could have had a theatrical release if the theatre owners had stood together and tried a bit more.

My response to the remarks of the leader of a theatre organisation that Malayalam cinema has survived the deaths of Jayan and Prem Nazir and would exist when Mohanlal and Mammootty are no more is that he should show some humility. Malayalam cinema wouldn’t forget his words.He hasn’t suffered half of what the light boys or the spot boys have suffered during the COVID-19 outbreak. The fact that Antony had suffered lots of hardships in life is what pains me the most. We are holding Antony closer because he had staked his life so that we could fulfill our dreams. I wonder who wants to celebrate his ruin.

Doesn’t this movie warranty a theatre experience?

Yes, it does. This movie was shot to suit the 70 mm screen. We feel dejected that it would now shrink to the size of a mobile screen. (Cinematographer) Sabu Cyril, who usually charges a hefty remuneration, did this project for just Rs 25 lakh. For him, the movie was more important than money. If we have decided not to release it in theatres, it’s because there is no other way. No one wants to be happy after destroying the producer.

Was 'Kaalapani' a loss too?

Yes, it was. 'Kaalapani' (which was released in 1996) had incurred significant losses to Mohanlal and Goodnight Mohan. We had hoped that the movie would make profits. Mohanlal and Goodnight Mohan had suffered those losses only for the sake of Malayalam cinema. This industry has not been able to create another 'Kaalapani' for the last 25 years. 'Marakkar' was the next big movie. We had to wait 25 years to make 'Marakkar' as there wasn’t a producer who had the strength and courage to bear loss.

Didn’t you begin the production of 'Marakkar' ntending to release it in theatres?

Definitely, yes. Many businesses are on the verge of collapse. 'Marakkar' could have been released in many countries. We could have survived from the profits that are earned from that. But many places across the world are still shutdown (owing to the pandemic). Antony has been suffering huge losses for the past two years. This is not just Antony’s decision; it is everyone’s decision.

You seem a bit agitated with the response of the theatre owners...

What kind of a culture allows a person to say that cinema and theatres would exist, no matter who dies. How could they say something like that about Mammootty and Mohanlal. They said that the theatres would continue to exist even if the actors are no more. I have no hatred towards anyone, but, they should be respectful. I cannot accept their words that reek of arrogance. The cinema industry is a chain connects everyone, from the producer to the man who sells tea in the theatre canteen. In order to save that from disruption, those who are willing to spend money should be here. It is from them that everything begins.

Each one should realise that cinema is not their individual kingdom but a world of cooperation. We should make sure that no one falls into debt or ruin. I have no resentment or hostility towards anyone. But, the insensitive words that came out of their mouths do not suit our culture. Mohanlal or I might not be affected by this hardship. However, it might affect the ordinary workers like the light boys. Not just the producer, actor or the theatre owners, but the ordinary workers too are part of the cinema industry. I too own two theatres; so I clearly know the struggles of the theatre owners. 

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