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Baahubali producers to bring Manu S Pillai’s award-winning novel The Ivory Throne to screen- Cinema express

Baahubali producers to bring Manu S Pillai’s award-winning novel The Ivory Throne to screen

The author tells us who he would like to cast to portray Sethu Lakshmi Bayi and Sethu Parvathi Bayi, if given a choice

Published: 19th March 2019
Manu S Pillai Arka Mediaworks The Ivory Throne

Arka Mediaworks, which earlier produced the Baahubali franchise, has acquired the audio-visual rights of author Manu S Pillai’s award-winning novel, The Ivory Throne: Chronicles of the House of Travancore. Set in 19th century Kerala, the non-fiction novel chronicles the life and times of Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, the last Maharani of the house of Travancore. 

Shobu Yarlagadda, one of the founders of Arka Mediaworks, announced that their production house will bring the novel to screen soon. “It's the retelling of a very fascinating period in Indian history. Here's hoping we can do justice to Manu's five years of hard work,” he tweeted. 

Author Manu S Pillai is excited about the project. "There were two interested parties earlier - one in 2016, which did not work out, and the other with a very good director last year, with whom we came close to signing. That is when Arka expressed interest. Not only was their vision grander, they also have the resources and expertise to realise it at that scale. So naturally, for me, the choice was clear." 

He is happy that it is being adapted as a web series. "It is actually ideal. From the time I first met Shobu in London in Summer last year, we have been envisioning it that way. Of course, parts of the book do offer up separate feature-film possibilities, but as Shobu tweeted, the aim is primarily to do an original series. That is the only way the richness of the story--with its matrilineal queens, colonial dynamics, court intrigues, and more--can be captured properly. A few hours as a feature film would hugely reduce the wealth of detail we have available."

Manu adds that as per discussions, the series will be made in English and multiple Indian languages. Ask him who he would love to cast as the primary characters Sethu Lakshmi Bayi and Sethu Parvathi Bayi, and he recounts an interesting story. "Anjali Menon (the Malayalam filmmaker) and I had a chat once over coffee in Bombay. She randomly asked me the same question--if The Ivory Throne were to come alive on screen, who'd play its chief female leads. We talked about it, and at the end of the discussion, it was Parvathy and Rima Kallingal whose names stood out. Since then, every time I think of an adaptation, it is the faces of these fine actors that I see. Of course, it is for the producers to decide in the end, based on various factors, but in my mind, it has been Parvathy and Rima for some time."

The Ivory Throne author signs off by saying that he is "keenly hoping to see 'my' Maharani of Travancore take shape on screen, and for her story to appeal to as large an audience as possible, as it did for me when I first encountered her tale in my late teens," and that he is always available for the showrunners whenever they need him. 

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