Shibin Francis: Ottakomban is for a mass audience
The screenwriter addresses the recent controversy that plagued Kaduva and Ottakomban, the upcoming films of Prithviraj and Suresh Gopi, respectively
The recent announcements of a new Prithviraj film (Kaduva) and a Suresh Gopi film (Ottakomban) have created a fair amount of confusion among fans of both superstars. The situation is unusual in that both films supposedly feature a character of the same name.
By releasing the title poster, the makers of Ottakomban have indicated that they are going ahead with their film. Suresh Gopi, while unveiling it, stated that Ottakomban is a different film. Now screenwriter Shibin Francis, for whom it is his fourth project, has finally decided to clear the air on his creation, in this exclusive chat with Cinema Express.
Let’s start with how the script idea originated.
As a person born and brought up in Pala, I am comfortable doing movies set in that backdrop. It is one of the reasons why Comrade In America also had a Pala setting. It has also been my dream to do a complete action-oriented ‘achayan’ film that caters to a mass audience. Films of veterans like Dennis Joseph have always inspired me. Ottakkomban is the outcome of that long-cherished dream.
Are your story and screenplay based on a real-life figure?
Ottakkomban is a product of imagination. The story, screenplay, and even mannerisms of the characters are entirely fictional. We have never claimed that it has any connection with a real-life person. And we have informed the court the same. During the controversy, their allegation at the court was that we stole their story and screenplay. Although it could create confusion among people for a brief period, we knew the allegation was absolutely false and baseless, and hence we didn’t react to it. We were sure that the truth would come out eventually. Suresh Gopi and Tomichan (producer) rooted for us as they knew we were right. If there remains any confusion regarding the other film, only the real-life Kuruvachan can take a call.
Since there is another film coming out with supposedly the same character, naturally, the ‘chicken or egg’ question arises. Suresh Gopi recently mentioned that both are different screenplays.
Suresh Gopi is right. Both Kaduva and Ottakkomban are two different stories and screenplays. The makers of Kaduva had produced their registered script at the court. After examining it, we had informed the court that our story, and its screenplay, bear no resemblance to their work. So there is no room for such confusion. When the two films reach theatres, let the audience give the final verdict. I can wait for that response.
Both teams have claimed ownership of the central character’s name. But Renji Panicker also said it was he who originally came up with that character name and added that anyone could use it. Is it possible for two films to proceed with the same character name, but different stories?
There is no harm in using the same name for a character if the stories are different. Take the case of movies based on Variyamkunnath Kunjahammed Haji. Four directors have announced projects based on that character. Are they going to call their lead character by a different name? One may justify it by saying that those movies are biopics. What about character names like Sethumadhavan or Balachandran? Can anybody claim them? If we look back, we can see that both Mohanlal and Mammootty have appeared as characters named Sethumadhavan in different films. Many other actors too have used that name.
When it comes to ‘Kaduvakunnel Kuruvachan’, Renji Panicker has claimed that he was the first to thought up that particular name and usage, and further stated that anyone could use it. In such a circumstance, the claim made by the makers of Kaduva is ethically wrong. It would have made some sense at least if that specific name was their thought first. We respect the court injunction order that makes us refrain from using that particular name until the final disposal of the case.
Your last film Underworld didn’t work as expected at the box office, but it has its share of fans. Do you feel that there are no takers for such slow-paced, mood-oriented films? Is Ottakomban an attempt to reach out to a relatively wider audience?
Answering your first question, I don’t feel that slow-paced, mood-oriented movies have no takers. Such films have always been a part of our industry. A recent example is Maayanadhi, which was well-received. Unfortunately, Underworld had a different fate. It received a lukewarm response in theatres. However, after its release on an OTT platform, many have called me saying they liked it. Every film has a fate which we cannot predict. Whatever its fate, Underworld will always remain close to my heart. Looking back, I feel glad to know that a group of people liked Underworld.
As for Ottakkomban, it is for a mass audience. The kind of response we got when we released the motion poster on Suresh Gopi’s birthday reveals what Malayalis have been missing from him. They have always liked to see him in such roles.