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Basheer brings ‘Balyakalasakhi’ to the screen

To lovers of Malayalam literature, Majeed and Suhara are no strangers, especially if you happen to be a fan of Vaikom Mohammad Basheer’s writing.

Written by the freedom poet and writer in 1944, Balyakalasakhi, the tragic tale of two childhood sweethearts, is brought to the screen this weekend by noted Malayali dramatist and television director Pramod Payyannur.

Playing the lead is Mammootty in a dual role, as a father and his son Majeed. Mumbai model Isha Talwar, who debuted in Malayalam with Thattathin Marayathu, plays Suhara.

This may be Pramod’s first feature film, but not his first work involving Basheer’s literature. He directed Basheer’s first short story Thankam, for Kairali TV in 2004 and another Basheer story, Mathilukal for the stage in 2008.

“I worked on Balyakalasakhi over the past four years,” said Pramod, who holds a degree in theatre arts from Thrissur’s School of Drama and did a course in direction at University of Calicut.

Apart from writing the screenplay, the film called for extensive research, being set in India’s pre-independence era.

“The challenge lay in getting costumes right and looking into minute details for recreating a natural look of the forties,” revealed Pramod, currently working as programme chief with the Reporter channel.

Produced by M.B. Muhsin and Sajeeb Hashim, Balyakalasakhi has two songs scored by the late K.Raghavan Master. Shahbaz Aman scored the rest. Hari Nair cranked the camera.

Other members of the cast are Meena (last seen in Drishyam) as Majeed’s mother, Bollywood actress Seema Biswas as a transgender person and Tanushree Ghosh, who plays a Malayalai girl living in Kolkata. This is Ghosh’s second film in Malayalam, after Ee Aadutha Kalathu.

“I share screen space with Mammootty in many scenes in the film and did not want to let go of this opportunity,” said Ghosh.

“He is like a bhaiya to my character in the story and the duo share a sweet bond. What was difficult was being aware of tiny details as it belongs to an era, when women wore no make-up and were not into threading and waxing.”

Balyakalasakhi releases in the UAE on March 20.