Between Rasikan, a rather humbling non-starter for a diehard cine-phile making his debut; Ee Adutha Kaalathu, his second venture that went on to become a cult hit, and his Left Right Left, Murali Gopy, the writer-actor, went through a sublime transformation.
The first movie gave him a reeling reality bite of how the Malayalam film industry functions; the second vindicated him and fetched him fans associations – a rarity by any measure for a non-superstar; and by the third, even as he now shuttles between sets as actor, Murali discovered in himself an element of nonchalance, an ability to switch on or off from the glitzy world of cinema.
That, he said, is extremely important to him as a writer. As Left Right Left, edited and directed by Arun Kumar, a close friend with whom he worked on Ee Adutha Kaalathu, rolled out before eagerly awaiting viewers, Murali also learnt to transcend the hype and audience expectations and look back on the project for what it is, and how he perceived it.
Five years ago, thus spake Murali: “This film has a totally different approach to writing and characterization from Ee Adutha Kaalathu. I approached it with a fresh mindset, and deliberately attempted not to follow the earlier track, even though it was extremely successful.”
Murali played the role of Che Guevara Roy, a political activist who has seen enough strife as a child, while Indrajith was seen a tough cop and Hareesh Peradi, a seasoned actor making his mark in the film industry for the first time, played another political heavyweight.
Portraying the stories of these three individuals who grew up in different circumstances, with their paths crossing inadvertently, Left Right Left, Murali insisted was not a political film. “In fact, none of the characters is moulded on any single character drawn from real life. On the other hand, every character is shaped from inspirations drawn from a dozen other people, whom we can relate with.”
“The basic premise of these characters is my view that man is part DNA, part unknown and part what he sees and goes through as a child,” said Murali. “The three are not villains or heroes; in fact, there is no judgment being passed on why they behave the way they do. To the onlooker, whatever they do, good or bad, will seem justified.”
Murali said the film was “a tale of outlooks and perspectives” rather than any biting social commentary or political statement. “I would call it a passive observation on the society, by simply presenting the respective stands of the three protagonists.”
He said the film was shaped by influences and observations over several years, although the writing itself took only a few months. “I wrote with an editor’s mindset, foreseeing where the cuts are to be made,” said Murali. “So it is also easy for Arun to approach the script better.”
Murali said he can approach any project of his only with humility. “I cannot be carried away by past success. In fact, on every project I experience the same level of both insecurity and confidence – and that mix is what drives me on.”
Five years later, the film continues to strike a chord – even more forcefully than before. In the interim, Murali was painted in shades of saffron – as the occasion suited – even when he continued to maintain a studied silence and on rare occasions underpinning his politics of humanity.
When Tiyan, a take on subservient Hindutva, was presented, once again, critics went not for the message but for Murali’s jugular, with convenient misinterpretations.
Today, in a politically polarised, often communally charged environment (where even news anchors – seasoned journalists at that – expose their idiocy) what was that one message of Left Right Left that rings true?
Probably that no political party is bound to the dictates of one or a few individuals.
From red to saffron, doesn’t that sublime message still hold out? Hero-worship – whatever the shade you choose – continues to breed a dire form of mob psychosis and there is no escape.