Veteran scriptwriter John Paul, who passed away in Kochi on Saturday, wrote his last script for the movie Pranaya Meenukalude Kadal, directed by Kamal, in 2019. He penned the script for the movie after a gap of 10 years. He did it under persuasion from those who loved him the most. John Paul had opened up about this long recess in his career in an interview given to Manorama in 2019. Here are some excerpts from the interview,
Why did you take such a long break from the Malayalam movie industry?
First of all, I was not a person who stepped into the cultural field through cinema. It so happened that I became part of the film field somewhere in the course of my writing career. It was never my habit to take a pen just for writing scripts. Hence, I did not find a vacuum when I kept away from the tinsel world. During this period, I took time off to write about other things apart from doing research on many subjects. It gave me enough satisfaction. In addition, I found time to give guidance to media students on film-making. I also gave impetus to the live story discussion sessions of many young film directors.
Did you feel any kind of mental agony during this recess?
Everyone lands in the film field with many dreams. But once you enter, you are in a hurry to establish yourselves in the field. When you become a full-time scriptwriter, you will not be able to become choosy. This was the reason why I had to write many scripts which many others had pointed out that I would not have written. When you delve deeper into the inner nuances of movies, you get the freedom not to write for movies. I literally enjoyed this luxury for the last 10 years.
Was there any kind of external pressure on you to write for movies during this period?
Many people came for story discussions during this period. But I just avoided it all because the subjects they mooted did not suit my taste. I never found cinema as a shortcut for money-making. Even after writing for so many films, I don’t have repentance or shame in saying that I am staying in a rented house at the age of 70 years.
Have you had any kind of fear about livelihood issues when you stopped script-writing?
Such apprehensions will come to our minds only when we become misfits for all other things. When my film career hit rock bottom, I switched over to teaching and journalism. I wrote many books. My creativity in other fields was double compared to my contribution in the film field. There also I spoke about life. Soon, I realised that I could stay afloat financially with the money which I earned from these fields.
Today’s movies are quite different from the kind of works that hit the screens when you were active. How do you feel about this change?
I have been with the film industry even during this transformation period. I understood this change more than anyone else. I accept these changes quite positively. I don’t agree with the view that we were right and the new generation is an immature lot. We have to learn a lot from the new set of filmmakers. But what worries me is that the mutual bonding that existed earlier in the Malayalam tinsel world is missing now.
How did this project with Kamal materialise?
I just went to meet Kamal to request him to do a film for a producer who is known to me very well. Surprisingly, Kamal persuaded me to write the script for the movie. Kamal is like a relative to me. It is Kamal’s 49th movie. The story is happening against the backdrop of Lakshadweep. Kamal is closely involved in the scripting of the movie.