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This article was first published 14 years ago

Bringing Sufi Paranja Katha to life

Last updated on: February 22, 2010 18:36 IST

Image: A scene from Sufi Paranja Katha
Meghna George in Kochi

Prakash Bare is perhaps living his dream. But his journey from a cozy life as a techie to movies has been an eventful one.

His maiden Malayalam venture as a producer, Sufi Paranja Katha directed by the National Award winning director Priyanandanan released last week. Besides being the film's producer, Prakash also plays an important role in the film, which is based on K P Ramanunni's novel.

Prakash Bare talks exclusively to about his stint as a producer as well as an actor.

You are a techie by profession. So why films?

Cinema has always been my passion since childhood. I was drawn to the theatre even when I was on campus. I was the best actor in the university inter-zone festivals. Later, I moved out of Kerala for Silicon Valley for a job/entrepreneurship. Even in California I continued to be active in plays. After my first venture, I decided to return and reconnect with literature, theater and above all, cinema. Currently I am exploring various projects in entertainment, education and energy space.

What attracted you to Sufi Paranja Katha?

Sufi Paranja Katha is a compelling and visually strong story, which is globally relevant. It is being made by a talented film maker, Priyanandanan, who is passionately committed to make a film version of it. Having seen various societies around the world, I consider the way of living that Sufi portrays in the book as unique and valuable. Considering the significant changes our society has been going through in the last couple of decades, I believe that Sufi is a story which has to be told; a story which will force the society here as well as around the world to take a step back, think and look at things differently.

'The Malayalam film industry is going through a bad phase'

Image: A scene from Sufi Paranja Katha

How was the experience of playing Maamootty in the film?

It wasn't planned originally. We were actually looking for known faces in Malayalam to do the role. But we couldn't decide on one who could fit the bill, schedule and budget. It was the author of the book, K P Ramanunni, who came up with the idea of me playing Maamootty.

I had many challenges in doing the role. The main one being the transition from stage acting to film acting.

Another difficulty was that Maamootty is not a usual hero character found in Malayalam films. He is a character who goes through a lot of changes as the film progresses. So a set pattern wouldn't have been enough. I didn't have a good idea how it would come out until the edit was complete. But all in all it was a very enjoyable and learning experience. It gave me a lot of confidence about various aspects of film acting.

How is it like marketing serious films in Malayalam?

Malayalam industry is going through a bad phase, as we all know. Like all other film industries, we are also going through a transition -- technology, viewing habits, business model and so on. Unfortunately we are behind the rest of the world and even the rest of India in responding to these changes.

We as an industry should promote more releases, switch to digital technology, improve theatres, create more multiplexes, introduce meaningful subsidies and so on. We should also contain piracy and tap the rich NRK market.

'Sufi's story is relevant'

Image: A scene from Sufi Paranja Katha

What were the problems you faced?

The craziest part is the weird yard scale that middlemen of the industry use for evaluating a film. They are so disconnected from our audience. They don't read scripts or watch films. They have ludicrous ways to judge whether a film will be a success or not. This distorted view is why 95% of our films fail. Still I am optimistic about the future of Malayalam cinema.

One thing which worked to our advantage is audiences' reaction to the film screening in IFFK (International Film Festival, Kerala) that created a lot of goodwill and eventually attracted Central Pictures, one of the most established distributors in Kerala, to watch the film and sign up to distribute the same.

How relevant is Sufi Paranja Katha in the current scenario?

Some folks who saw the film in IFFK and the premieres in Kochi came to me and said, "It is a story which has to be told and it has been well told".

The first part emphasises the relevance of Sufi story in today's times. I have lived in the west for several years and I know how rigid the boundaries of religion and societies there are. They can't even imagine our unique culture of shared space among religions.

Kerala has several jarams where both Hindus and Muslims go and pray to the biwis and sufis. Our rich culture of Islam is being threatened in last two decades. In today's Kerala where love-jihad and Malabar terrorism capture headlines, Sufi's story, I think, is very relevant.

'Priyan is not very expressive when it comes to explaining things'

Image: A scene from Sufi Paranja Katha

How was it working with director Priyanandanan? 

I know Priyan as an active member of Jose Chirammel's root movement during my campus days in Palakkad engineering college.

Later when I returned to India, I watched his National Award winning Pulijanmam and was thoroughly impressed by how deftly he handled that complex theme with a multi-layered structure.

But I was very concerned about how the Sufi theme and his style will go well together. But later I could see his passion, preparedness and vision for this project.

Priyan is not very expressive when it comes to explaining things. But he is very definite about the results he wants for each of the scenes. His acting skill comes very handy when communicating with the artists. His communication with Sharbani Mukherji, who cannot speak Malayalam, was something great to watch. The way he works with cinematographer KG Jayan and editor Venugopal was very interesting too. They work together as a closely knit team in planning the scenes and shot selection.

Priyan's theatre background helped me significantly in my adaptation from a stage actor to a film actor.

How serious are you about your career as an actor?

I am fairly serious about acting -- both in theatre and films. I did a negative role in MG Sasi's Janaki recently. I also did Vladimir's role in Malayalam adaptation of Waiting for Godot in Bangalore. I look forward to performing challenging and interesting roles in the coming days.

What are the future plans and projects?

My second feature film is MG Sasi's Janaki -- daughter of earth. It is a story of a street child who is adopted by a septuagenarian Gandhian.

My third project is directed by Sohanlal based on a script written by Deedi Damodaran. Shooting will start in April.

I am also working on a theatre production in English based on the life of IT folks in Bangalore and Silicon Valley. There are also some more discussions about feature and animation projects.