A Lal Jose film written by Dr Iqbal Kuttippuram, the Dubai-based homeopathic practitioner, is always a reason for joy for Malayalam cinema audiences.
If their earlier collaborations – Arabikatha and Diamond Necklace – brought out unseen vignettes of expatriate life in the Arabian Gulf, for Vikramaadithyan, their third project together, they are going back – both in time and distance – to the by-lanes of Fort Kochi.
A thumping success at the box-office, Vikramaadithyan does not claim to offer much novelty on the face of it. After all, what could be new in the story of two youngsters who grow up together, constantly compete against each other and are friends and foes at the same time?
Dr. Iqbal Kuttippuram does not disagree. “We were fully aware of how the theme could have gotten into cliché territory, and we consciously worked to overcome that. There were a lot of questions raised during our discussions about the story, and we were extremely careful to ensure that the film rationalizes the actions of every character.”
Dr. Iqbal had been toying with the film’s theme for several years now. And as with all his movies, there is an inherent goodness to Vikramaadithyan and to every character in the film.
His fondness for positivism, perhaps, is the hallmark of his personality. “I like to approach people and situations positively, and I believe that life offers positive second chances.”
That then is also the crux and the differentiating factor of Vikramaadithyan, which could easily qualify as one of the feel-good movies with a youthful cast including Dulquer Salman, Unni Mukundan, Namitha Pramod and Nivin Pauly, in a cameo role. The film’s cast also includes Anoop Menon and Lena, who play characters that age and evolve over time.
Playing Dulquer’s mother, Lena’s performance, particularly, has come in for great praise. In an earlier interview with City Times, she had said: “It is not a run-of-the-mill mother character. I age from 25 to 55 years in the movie, making it a truly challenging role.”
The story of Vikram (Unni) and Aadithyan (Dulquer) comes with shades of black, white and grey. Their lives are intertwined with those of their parents who have a sad history to boot.
While Vikram grows up to be focused and ambitious, Aadithyan is the proverbial drifter. Through several twists and turns, the film eventually evolves as a surprising coming-of-age tale that reposes one’s trust in humanity – a trademark-style of Dr. Iqbal.
Vikramaadithyan’s script spans a period of several decades. For both Lal Jose and Dr. Iqbal, a film with such an extended time period has been a novelty. In scripting, Dr. Iqbal also dipped into his personal experiences – and his familial connection with Fort Kochi, a place that has marveled him. He had earlier written Gramophone set in the milieu but this time he extended the remit.
“My aunt was married to a Fort Kochi resident, and for me, coming from north of Kerala, every visit to their home was a unique learning experience. It was as if they were from a different world altogether,” says Dr. Iqbal.
In addition to bringing in the cultural ‘melting pot’ dimension of Fort Kochi, he also draws on the lives of the Konkani community. “I studied at the Dr Padiar Memorial Homeopathic Medical College in Ernakulam, where I had many friends from the community. I have always felt that they and their dialect have been much misrepresented in movies. Of course, we have taken cinematic liberties but we have tried to be true to the core,” he says.
Dr. Iqbal adds that the film would not have been possible in a different setting than Fort Kochi. “The unique identity of the place is central to the narrative. Having just shot his earlier film in Kochi, Lal was insistent on finding unseen angles and locations, and that was another key challenge in the film’s making.” To address that, they receive ample support from cinematographer Jomon T John.
For the first time, you can also meet a homoeopathic doctor in a Dr. Iqbal script, the role played by Joy Mathew, another talent that now shines in Malayalam cinema, having earlier worked in Dubai.
In addition to six lyricists being roped in for the movie, in another first, Dr. Iqbal also leaves behind the scope for a sequel with Vikramaadithyan. “I have never felt or supported the need for sequels, but this film could have one.”
Dr Iqbal hasn’t commenced work on his next. So could it be one with Mohanlal or Mammootty, two of the stars, he has never written for? “If I write for them, it has to be one of the ten most memorable films of theirs in their career.”