Film late, Kerala writer wants Bhim’s story back

The script of the Mohanlal starring film was handed to the director four years ago, but filming has not begun

By K.M. Rakesh in Bangalore
  • Published 12.10.18, 4:34 AM
  • Updated 12.10.18, 4:34 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Mohanlal Agencies

A Kerala court has issued a temporary injunction on the use of the M.T. Vasudevan Nair-penned script of the film adaptation of his Mahabharat-based Malayalam novel Randamoozham on the ground of inordinate delay in starting filming.

Nair had moved the additional munsiff court in Kozhikode seeking his script back from filmmaker V.A. Shrikumar Menon. The script, one version in Malayalam and the other in English for translation into other languages for the proposed multi-lingual movie starring superstar Mohanlal in the lead role, had been handed over to Menon four years ago, but filming is yet to begin.

The film, whose proposed budget was Rs 1,000 crore, was to be India’s most expensive movie. Besides Mohanlal, who was to play the central character of Bhim, the names of Amitabh Bachchan and Telugu actor Nagarjuna had been doing the rounds.

VA Shrikumar Menon
VA Shrikumar Menon Agencies

Nair’s lawyer K.B. Shivaramakrishnan told The Telegraph that the court had posted the case for further hearing on October 25.

“The court passed an ex parte order without hearing the other party, as the judiciary is empowered to do so based on the merit of the case. The court will now send a notice to the other party (Menon),” the lawyer said.

Nair had in his petition argued that the filmmaker had entered into a memorandum of understanding with him in August 2014 to make a movie from the author’s script.

Randamoozham (Second Turn), the 1984 novel by Nair, is a retelling of the Mahabharat from Bhim’s perspective. The author portrayed it as a story minus the divinity associated with the epic.

Last year, the Sangh-backed Hindu Aikya Vedi had threatened the producer, UAE-based business tycoon B.R. Shetty, against naming the movie Mahabharat.

In 2017, Nair had agreed to extend the period to begin filming by another year after Menon sought more time to start the project.

Nair clarified on Thursday that there was no quarrel between him and Menon. “There is no quarrel between us. I am unable to give any answer to people who often ask about the movie,” Nair told a Malayalam channel.

“There is no point in waiting. I have already given an extension of one year,” he added.

Nair said any other filmmaker wishing to use the script was welcome. “Once I get my script I can do something if there are other takers. But it’s not necessary that the book be made into a movie,” he said.

MT Vasudevan Nair
MT Vasudevan Nair Agencies

Menon had planned to make the film in Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and English, catering to a pan-Indian and global audience.

Menon wrote on Facebook after the court order that he had planned to start shooting in July 2019 and owned up his mistake of not keeping Nair updated.

“Previously I used to regularly meet or call MT sir to update him about the project. But over the last several weeks I have been busy with the post-production work of Odiyan,” he wrote.

When Mohanlal had undergone a makeover to look younger and fitter in Odiyan, a December release where he plays a spaceshifter who can transform his physical form or shape, there had been speculation in the Malayalam media that the actor was already shaping up to play Bhim.

Menon, an adman-turned-filmmaker, said he visited the US last month along with Shetty as part of the film’s production.

“It is my mistake that I have not kept MT sir updated about the work. I will meet him and clarify everything,” Menon wrote on Facebook.

He said it took more time than he had expected because of the complicated financial planning and international agreements over the film’s release.

Shetty had even wanted filming to begin in the UAE deserts.