The Anandapadmanabhan Padmarajan Interview: Writing ‘Kaattu’ was a challenge

Son of legendary P Padmarajan’s son Anandapadmanabhan talks to Deepa Antony about his father and his foray into film-writing.

Anandapadmanabhan Padmarajan, son of the legendary P Padmarajan, needs no better introduction. The writer-television producer carved his niche as a crafty story-teller with August Club in 2013. Now, as his story Kaattu directed by Arun Kumar Aravind gears for an October release Anandapadmanabhan Padmarajan talks about his father and his cinematic journey so far.

  • After August Club it took you almost 4 years to pen your next film, Kaattu!
  • Actually I wrote Kaattu much before I wrote August Club. August Club wasn’t even planned as a feature film to begin with. It was based on a story I wrote that was published in Malayala Manorama Onapathippu (Onam edition). I was later asked to visualize it. And then one thing lead to another and it turned out the way it did. It was quite unexpected. But Kaattu happened more organically, more naturally. I would even call Kaattu my first professional foray into film-writing.
  • So, how did Kaattu happen?
  • I wrote the first draft of Kaattu 17 years back. I had borrowed Chellappan and Mooppan, two characters from two different stories my father had written. I weaved a new story around these characters, adding new characters and situations. I based the story in the 70s, keeping with the timeline of Chellappan and Mooppan in my father’s stories. Back then Murali (Gopy), my long-time friend, was the first person to point out the cinematic scope of the story I had written. But he was working as a journalist and I got busy with work, so making it into a film didn’t just materialize. Much later I even made a journey with Arun Kumar Aravind to the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border near Palakkad and Pollachito to write a story about the prevalent violence over racial discrimination in some of the villages there. Many incidents of unregistered cases of violence have been occurring against those who dare to marry outside their caste even today. But somehow I had forgotten the story I wrote 17 years back. It was only last December that Murali came home one day with Arun Kumar Aravind asking for my old story. By some odd luck I hadn’t thrown the old draft away and found it tucked in a corner. That’s how we decided to revamp the story. We sort of revamped keeping 25% of the story intact. Hadn’t these guys persuaded me, I simply wasn’t convinced of making it into a film. But then Murali told me that if he still remembered the story I narrated to him 17 years back that means there’s something to the story that defies time! That got me…
  • In a Facebook post Murali Gopy characterizes the film as “Raw. Rustic. Retro.” Have the characters, yours’ and your father’s, come out as you anticipated?
  • I was joking with Murali the other day that this is perhaps the only film where his character has not one word to utter in English! Even August Club had him reciting Shakespeare in perfect English! (laughs) But, jokes apart, I would even go as further to call his portrayal of Chellappan as his career best. More than once he reminded me of his father, Bharat Gopy as Aiyappan in Yavanika. I would even say Asif Ali as Nuhukannu has given his career best performance so far. Even Unni Rajan, the youngest son of veteran Rajan P Dev, plays a pivotal character. He’s a controlled actor and handles his character with finesse. Arun Kumar Aravind wasn’t convinced till his audition. But at his audition he had us all floored. Manasa (Radhakrishnan) as Ummukkulsu and Varalaxmi (Sarathkumar) as Muthulaxmi have all come out brilliantly!
  • The trailer is looking rustic and earthy. What sort of a film would you say this is?
  • It’s an ode to a genre of raw village movies like Yavanika, Thazvaram, Olavum theeravum, etc. It’s an attempt to relive that lost genre. Nowadays we see village movies with a more romantic or nostalgic tone to it. Our villages are not all happy and green! We never see a film like Paruthiveeran or Subramaniapuram in Malayalam anymore. This is that sort of a story with grey shades of violence over revenge and betrayal in life. The characters in Kaattu are neither all black nor all white. They are a mix of all shades between black and white.
  • Given it’s an Arun Kumar Aravind movie, does Kaattu try and make a political statement?
  • It’s not about the politics of flags, no. But the story does take a subtle political stand against racism. Otherwise the story is about basic human instincts and desires.

 

  • You wrote August Club in 2013 and then waited until 2017 to write your next film, Kaattu. Did the gap happen or was it conscious?
  • Days before my father (late P Padmarajan) passed away he advised me to never make cinema my livelihood. Maybe he was stressed because Njan Gandharvan didn’t do as well as he expected or what I don’t exactly know. But he said that cinema is very stressful and that I should find a job other than cinema to earn my bread and butter. I don’t know if it is his words or not, but I respect the written word more than cinema. Cinema has always mesmerized me, no doubt, but literature is what I really love. I would rather have the photographs of literary legends adorning my walls at home than film-makers. So getting into cinema and becoming a film-maker was never something I craved.
  • P Padmarajan, your father, is one of the most celebrated storytellers Malayalam has witnessed. So to use his characters to craft a new story around it is a challenge even to his son. Wouldn’t you say?
  • I’ve had many opportunities to venture into cinema or re-make one of his stories. If I wanted I could write Rathinirvedam when it was being remade. But, I didn’t because I knew it was a huge risk and so I politely refused. Frankly, I still don’t have the courage to re-work any of my father’s stories in its entirety. There’s a big chance I get blamed of spoiling it! (laughs) In this case I’ve only used two of his characters from two different stories of his. So, there’s less risk!
  • Social media is abuzz about a voice note of your mother talking about Kaattu. What does she think about Kaattu?
  • My mother (Ms. Radha Lakshmy) is good critic. Because of her sharp criticism my father used to call her ‘Krishnan Nair’ in jest after the writer and literary critic M Krishnan Nair. “What does Krishnan Nair have to say,” he would ask her. (laughs) So, her approval means a lot to me. Though I had narrated the first draft to her long back I’ve kept the story a suspense for her. I’m taking her on the release day itself to watch the first show in the evening at New Theatre in Trivandrum. I’m confident about Arun (Kumar Aravind), Murali (Gopy) and everyone. But I’m also scared as I’ve borrowed my father’s characters for the story. (nervous laugh) Hopefully, everyone, my mother and all our viewers will like the film! Let the viewers decide…

Arun Kumar Aravind, Murali Gopy and Anandapadmanabhan Padmarajan are three names which come loaded with great expectations for Malayalam movie buffs. So, as Kaattu opens in the theatres it is anything but a promise of a visual experience par excellence! 

CONVERSATION byDeepa Antony

13 Oct 2017 | 11:10 AM