Banner: Gokulam Films
Cast: Mammootty, Sarath Kumar, Thilakan, Nedumudi Venu, Jagathy Sreekumar, Captain Raju, Lalu Alex, Manoj K Jayan, Biju Menon, Kalabhavan Mani, Suresh Krishna, Subair, Siddique, Roshan, Manikuttan, Kanika, Padmapriya, Urmila Unni, Valsala Menon, Nikhila.
Production: Gokulam Gopalan
“The story of ‘Pazhassi Raja’ one of our first, but least known freedom fighters, appealed to me also because it offered tremendous visual possibilities in the backdrops of the forests and the wars.
We know about the high expectations people have on the film and are confident that we will be able to live up to it”, says the director Hariharan.
‘Pazhassi Raja’ popularly known as the Lion of Kerala isn’t well known outside Kerala, but he was one of our country’s first freedom fighters. He had to reckon with the armies of the Mysore rulers as well as the British.
The British first used him against Tipu’s army and then reneged on their treaty. And more, the Raja was agitated by the unpopular revenue policy followed by the East India Company in Malabar .He then threatened to stop collecting taxes if the Company continued with this mode of revenue collection.
Even before the much celebrated Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, Raja spear headed an attack against the British who made a futile attempt to capture the Raja in his own palace at Pazhassi in April 1796.
A movie on the life of one of the greatest of the rulers of Kerala has been in the rounds for the last two decades. In fact, MT Vasudevan Nair, one of the master scriptwriters of all times, had been on this thinking from the days of his ‘Oru Vadakkan Veergatha’ which came out in 1989.
Now after 18 years from this epoch making movie, ‘Pazhassi Raja’ is slowly but steadily shaping up under the directorial ship of ace director Hariharan,to become the biggest epic movie of our times.
The movie which was in the making since May, last year is into its last session which will get completed with another 25 days of shoot. Most of the important scenes of the movie are shot with four cameras working simultaneously.
The movie planned with the biggest ever budget for a Malayalam movie (rumored to be more than eight crores), is produced by Gokulam Gopalan, who also consider the movie as his prestige project.
This magnum opus is expected to bring out the story of the first organized revolt against British rule, led by Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja of the Padinjare Kovilakom of the Kottayam family near Thalassery in Kannur district.
The British company then made proclamations which forbid people from supporting the Raja, threatening to confiscate the property of all who are supporting Pazhassi.
In 1797 the Raja’s men launched attack on the security personnel stationed at Pazhassi, and in continuous battles that were fought over three days, Pazhassi’s men were able to overpower the British forces, using swords, spears, bows and arrows .
With an army of thousands of Nairs , Pazhassi inflicted such defeat on the British that they were forced to retreat and negotiate. This forced the British to sign a temporary armistice, in accordance with Raja’s wishes.
‘Pazhassi Raja’ once again revolted against the occupants when the British decide to take over Wynad in 1799, after the fall of Sreerenga Patanam.
This time the British had an upper hand as they controlled most of the south. They confiscated Raja’s properties and proclaimed a reward for capturing him.
Raja who fled from the palace, took refuge in the jungles accompanied by his wife and immediate attendants.
Raja tried to continue his warfare with the help of aadivasas and his loyal Kurichiyar tribe. Using guerrilla tactics and informers, he kept the British on tenterhooks for longer than any other regional ruler.
But on November 30 1805, the Raja was surrounded by Thomas Harvey Babar, a young British officer on charge of suppressing Pazhaassi and was shot dead in an operation on the banks of Mavila Thodu.
Hariharan, MT Vasudevan Nair and Mammootty, are sure that they are in the making of and a film that will become a milestone in Malayalam cinema.