The highly acclaimed Malayali filmmaker Kamaluddin Mohammed better known as Kamal, is at the moment the most beleaguered filmmaker in India. Not only is he being attacked by right-wing religious organizations for being anti-national, his leading lady Vidya Balan has abruptly opted out of his proposed bio-pic on the life and times of poet-author-iconoclast-rebel Kamala Das who ruled the Indian literary world in the 1960s and 70s with her colourful shocking unabashedly sexual writing and lifestyle.
All the stress has taken its toll on the famed director of globally acclaimed works like Celluloid and Gaddama. Kamal was this week hospitalized with stress-related ailments.
A close friend and associate of Kamal who was collaborating very closely on the filmmaker’s Kamala Das biopic says it is unfortunate that the filmmaker has to go through this trauma for no reason at all.
“Kamal is the gentlest, kindest soul who wouldn’t hurt a fly. His cinema and his life reflect an absolute devotion to non-partisan politics. To label him anti-national and then to add insult to injury was too much for him to take. Kamal is going through very stressful times and yes, he was hospitalized,” says the friend and colleague and collaborator who adds that the Kamala Das biopic will be made irrespective of Vidya Balan’s non-presence.
“The story of Kamala Das is much larger than any of us individuals who were the core team of the project. The film will be made without Ms. Balan. We’ll announce a new lead in a few weeks. At the risk of sounding proud dare we suggest that it is her loss entirely? We don’t know why Vidya chickened out at the last minute. We don’t think it was right-wing pressure. We think Kamala Das finally proved too controversial for Vidya to play. We’ve no problem with her opting out. But why did she wait till we were ready to shoot? Why didn’t she inform us of her decision before? She did not even communicate her decision directly to the director. Kamal was in the dark about her decision to quit until he got a cursory call from one of Ms Balan’s team members. Until then she simply cancelled two schedules without indicating her unwillingness to do the film. Is this the way to announce your exit from a film for which you were preparing eagerly for the last one year?”
The source says that the director Kamal had even hired a Malayali coach to work on Ms. Balan’s Malayalam lines. “She was very keen on playing Kamala Das until a month ago. She was working on her Malayali accent and on personality traits of Kamala Das. Then we don’t know what happened. Perhaps after 6-7 successive failures in Hindi going into a regional film would’ve sent the wrong signal to her Bollywood producers.”