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|April 5, 1999||
The film, Pathram, directed by Joshi, is set to shatter box office records. The film running house full in 32 theatres across the state has already collected Rs 515 million in 25 days as against the record collection of Rs 750 million made by Shaji Kailas's Aram Thampuran in 200 days.
Though the film starts with a declaration that the characters in the film have no semblance with anybody living or dead, it is widely believed it tells the story of two leading newspapers in the state.
The film had to overcome through many a hurdle before it saw the light of the projector. Ranji Panickar, who wrote the story, screenplay and dialogues, said the film-makers had an inkling of what was coming when the Regional Censor Board at Trivandrum referred the film to the Central Censor Board. Curiously, they did not cite any reason for seeking such an opinion.
The Central Censor Board, which saw the film on January 25, also tried to block the film. "Though the board authorities promised to give a certificate on January 27, they made a last minute volte face, deciding to send the film to the Press Council for its opinion," said Panickar.
"They wanted to know whom we had in mind when we conceived a character called Outhakuttychayan, who bears some similarity to K M Mathew, the owner of Malayala Manorama, the largest circulated Malayalam daily in Kerala," Panickar said.
The Central Censor Board, Panickar said, had spoken about a complaint they had received against the film from Kerala Press Academy chairman V P Ramachandran.
"It became clear to us that the Press Academy chief was trying to safeguard the interests of the newspaper barons and that forced us to move swiftly. We approached the ministry of information and broadcasting with help from our political friends and got the certificate without having the film referred to the Press Council," Panickar revealed.
K Mohanan, who subsequently became the Press Academy chairman, also made matters easier by informing the I&B ministry that the opinion expressed in Ramachandran's letter was his personal view and not that of the academy.
The film's storyline has the characteristics of an ordinary commercial film. The story starts with the arrival of Nandakumar (Suresh Gopi) from Bombay to join up as the associate editor of a paper called Kerala Rashmi.
Nandakumar finds it hard to adapt to the newspaper owner's policy of increasing circulation by sensationalising news. The story gains momentum when Nandakumar come in touch with the editor of another newspaper called Jagratha, Shekharan (Murali), who is trying to expose the underworld links of Vijayakumar (M F Varghese), a big shareholder in Kerala Rashmi.
When Vijayakumar eliminates Shekharan, Nandakumar turns against the newspaper owner and Vijayakumar. He is arrested in a false case filed with backing from politicians and police officials. A young IPS officer, Firoz, who comes in to investigate Shekharan's murder, backs Nandakumar and the duo takes on the goons. Suresh Gopi, Manju Warrier and N F Varghese have done a good job in the film.
"The film-going public seems to have liked our attempt to bare the real state of affairs in the newspaper establishments. I have a strong feeling that the two major newspapers in Malayalam were trying to protect their interests than serving the readers by giving a honest account of the events. They don't mind distorting news and even manipulating cartoons to take political revenge. The impression the owners of these newspapers give is that they have the right to decide who rules the state," alleged director Joshi.
"As a reader I feel I have a right to question these undesirable tendencies. I have scripted the film from a reader's point of view. I think I have honestly said what I felt without any fear or favour," said Ranji Panickar.
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