Kamaluddin Mohammed, better known as Kamal, who’s behind the Malayalam masterpieces like Celluloid, Gramohophone and Aggathan, is under siege. The filmmaker, who’s being accused by right-wing parties of anti-nationalism for protesting the forced entry of policemen in a cinema hall during a national anthem, opens up in a candid interview.
From a National award-winning filmmaker to an anti-national, this happens only in India, don’t you agree?
I still don’t know what happened. I thought India belongs to all Indians. I was born and brought up in India. I am as Indian as anyone else. I don’t see myself as a Hindu or Muslim.
You had to be hospitalised?
Yes, but it had nothing to do with the controversy. I needed to get myself looked at.
Have you been provided security from the people who are threatening you?
Now, I am in my hometown Kodungallur which is on the outskirts of Kochi. Everything is peaceful here. No sign of any aggression . Actually this is a Communist-dominated area.And although the (Bharatiya Janta Party) BJP has clout in these parts too, I am safe.So here, I am only hearing about all the things that I am supposed to have done and all the things that people want to do to me.
So you make you films from this little town?
Yes, I prefer to stay here because all my relatives and friends stay here. I feel comfortable and secure. My hometown is communist and secular. That’s why I grew up feeling neither Muslim nor Hindu.
What’s your reaction to being called anti-national?
I don’t even know what happened. I am the chairperson of the Kerala State Film Academy. The national anthem is played before every film here. I never protested against that, and why would I? I only protested against the police forcibly entering a cinema house to arrest people during the anthem. That was not right.
How does this make you anti-national?
I don’t know. Maybe those who accusing me can explain.It could be my communist leanings. During the last elections, I campaigned for some communist candidates. I am a communist. That’s my political ideology. But that doesn’t make me anti-national. They’ve be targeting individuals from the arts. I am sure you’ve heard of the way the veteran littérateur MT Vasudevan was targeted.
To add to your troubles, Vidya Balan has backed out of your Kamla Das biopic Aami...
Yes .The timing is unfortunate, though I’d like to believe that the right-wing pressure had nothing to do with it. She liked the script, but backed out suddenly. It came as a complete surprise when she walked out just a week before the shooting was to start, and it just doesn’t suit such a great actor to behave like this.
But I am not stressing over her departure. I am going to make the film with another fine artist. I have distinguished names like Gulzar and Resul Pookutty associated with the project. This is my dream project and I’ve been planning it for four years. One Vidya can’t take my dream away.
Do you think this incident scared her off?
I don’t think so. I think Kamla Das proved too controversial for Vidya. As you know, Kamla Das had converted to Islam. I think Vidya was scared to portray her. Plus, maybe she was under pressure because her recent Hindi films have failed. But I wish her well.
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