Malayalam filmmaker Jayaraj, known for movies that revolve around the traditional Hindu lifestyle, beliefs and customs, has chosen new ground for his next film, Daivanamathil (In the name of God).
The movie looks at terrorism from a personal and emotional angle. Due for release later this month, it is about a Muslim girl's attempt to retrieve her husband, who becomes an extremist after his bitter experience following the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.
The movie is scripted by Aryadan Shaukat, whose first film with eminent director T V Chandran, Padam Onnu: Oru Vilapam, won several national and international honours including the National Award for best director and the Best Actress award for Meera Jasmine.
In Padam Onnu, Shaukat dealt with the story of a studious Muslim girl who ends up as a second wife to a man working in the Gulf, and the resultant tragedy.
In Daivanamathil, he takes the theme of how Muslim youths deviate to the path of extremism and how Muslims are tagged 'extremists' for crimes committed by a tiny fraction of the community.
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The central character in the film is Anwar, played by Prithviraj, whose grandfather Sahib is portrayed as the voice of sobriety in the film.
'Islam never encourages extremism. Even agonising cries of Muslims are being treated as extremism and the handiwork of a small minority among us makes people celebrate worse enemies as the world's police,' he tells his grandson.
The film delicately portrays Anwar's transition into a 'jehadi' after an encounter in a train with karsevaks headed to demolish the Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh.
'I can no longer find a place for a romantic husband in me after seeing what is happening to my community. My sole aim now is jehad and I do not think a post-graduate degree to serve the fascists will carry any purpose,' he writes to his wife, from whom he parted for higher studies after a brief honeymoon.
Bhavana plays Samira, the girl who tries to change her husband and ends up in jail for his extremist activities. She wants her old Anwar back from the prison of his newfound beliefs.
Daivanamathil is the title of the book written by Sahib, a true secularist, who distances himself from his grandson after Anwar takes up the extremist path.
Sahib is grieved to hear Anwar was behind the planting of a bomb in a hotel that opened in the holy month of Ramzan. Anwar convinces himself that as the community has a powerful enemy, revenge can be cruel. He believes innocents getting killed should not deviate the true jehadi from his path.
Shaukat says the inspiration for the film was his own experience after the Babri Masjid demolition when many of his Leftist classmates, who left for higher studies outside the state, returned as votaries of extremism.
"What I want to say through the film is that the fight against fascism and imperialism should not be taken up on a religious plane. What Muslims should do is to join democratic forces in this fight," Shaukat said.
Jayaraj says he found the subject relevant in the contemporary world. "I have adopted a very sensitive approach in the film, treating it from a very personal angle involving husband-wife relations," he said. "You will sit in your seats in a reflective mood after the movie ends."
While the film's first part -- where the protagonist turns to extremism -- was easier to handle, the portrayal of the wife's attempt to change her husband was a real challenge, he said.
The director said he had lavishly portrayed the colourful celebrations which are part of Muslim marriages as they provide an effective contrast to the changes in Anwar's life.
The music score, by Praveen Mani, follows traditional Pakistani and Iranian styles.
Daivanamathil is likely to become a hot point of debate and create ripples in the community like Padam Onnu, which won the Best Film award at the 2003 Dhaka film festival.
Chandran has a role in the new movie, as a dubbing artiste. He lends his voice for Sahib, being played by a newcomer.