I, as a film director, am fortunate to receive the affection of my viewers. My movies have granted me ample opportunity of being loved by film enthusiasts. To some extent, TV channels have helped audiences form an opinion about me. I do not know whether this love will enhance or perish in case if a viewer establishes direct personal relationship with me!
Anyway, nowadays I am making some ‘enemies’! They are the people who approach me saying they have a story ready for a good film! Earlier, I used to spare time for each of them. Almost every member of this group will begin their conversation by pitying the senselessness of recent releases. They will express their ‘intense remorse’ over decay of screen play writing. Then they will claim that they have 5 or 6 stories as a panacea for all these diseases that affect Malayalam film industry. The interaction closes with the visitor presenting a story based on the theme of a hit film itself, or its true copy!
Some of them come with their strong protest against prevailing system in film industry and the ‘cruelty’ of directors who do not give opportunity to new talents. Then, they will tell shockingly strange stories. One need not be a director to grasp the awkwardness of these stories. A lot of such people have respected jobs in the society. I have been a patient listener for a long time, and tried convincing the inappropriateness of their story, without hurting them.
Once, when preliminary news about Chanthupottu was out, I received a letter. It was from a person whose story I had listened earlier.
The letter said-“ Dear Lal Jose, I am very glad to know that you are making a film based on my story. However, I have not seen my name anywhere in the news item. I will approach the court unless you give me due credit for being writer of the story and my remuneration. N.B: As my wife is a leading advocate in Kannur court, be informed that I don’t have to spend any extra amount for filing and executing legal procedures.”
An employee at the secretariat- this friend had attached a photostat copy of his story along with the letter- Story of a man who undergoes sex change through hormone alteration. At the first glance itself I could understand that his story did not possess even a distant connection to the story of my film. I found his phone number in the letter. I asked on what basis he believed that the story belonged to him. Also how he could decide on this with some bits of storyline from film magazines. But this person was adamant. He told two years ago the story was published in a local magazine in Kannur. I gave him the phone number of Chanthupottu’s writer BennyP.Nayarambalam. Anyway it was Benny who wrote the story!
After two days, the same person called me with a strange request “Sir, please tell Benny not to register a case against me!” Of course then the matter was beyond my understanding. I called Benny. I was greeted with a loud laughter on the other side. Chanthupottu, the heartrending story of Radhakrishnan, the dancer boy, was developed from Benny’s own theatre production for Jubilee theatres presented on stage before 20 years. As a tit for tat Benny told him that he will register a case against him for stealing that story and publishing it in a magazine before 2 years. He warned him that this legal battle could well be the cause of loosing his government job!
Name of the protagonist in our friend’s story also was Radhakrishnan. This very similarity acted as the main factor that moved him to the brink of registering a case.
After Classmates was released, a person approached the court accusing the story was stolen from two of his novels. To name a few similarities- all these stories were set against the backdrop of college life and while the name of protagonist in classmates is Sukumaran, the novel had a protagonist named Sudhakaran. Though the case was rejected by the court after two years, the mental pressure and dejection that I experienced during this period was too heavy. I realized that these problems were actually created by my own habit of listening to unfamiliar people. I no more entertain stories by strangers. Nowadays, when I get calls that people have marvelous stories, a few desperately end conversation by calling me names.
Well, I realize that knowingly I am creating a group people who have ill-feelings towards me. But, honestly, I don’t know what to do, to be in their good books!