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India's third Sanskrit movie to get underway

After almost two decades, a Sanskrit movie, depicting the life of 17th century Keralite poet-scholar Unnayi Warrier, is getting ready and is expected to hit the screens by September this year.

When completed, this will be the third Sanskrit film in the history of Indian cinema.

Award-winning director Vinod Mankara will be helming the film in the "language of Gods", taking the path trodden by legendary film maker late G V Iyer, who has the credit of making the first two Sanskrit films.

Titled "Priyamanasam", the one-and-half hour-long period film revolves around the mental conflicts and agonies experienced by Warrier while he had penned his magnum opus "Nalacharitham" aattakkatha (Kathakali play).

The shooting of the movie will begin this week and it is scheduled to be released in the coming September.

Mankara says besides his love for Sanskrit, an intense desire to do something to revive the almost 'dead' language made him think on the lines of directing a movie in Sanskrit.

"A movie in Sanskrit may not create ripples in theatres, may not excite box offices, there may also be difficulty in getting theatres for its release. Still I have been cherishing an intense desire to do a movie in Sanskrit all these years since I watched G V Iyer's films," he told PTI.

"Adi Shankaracharya" (1983) and "Bhagavad Gita" (1993), directed by Iyer, are the only movies ever made in Sanskrit. Both films had bagged National Awards in the respective years.

He said though Sanskrit is considered a "dead language" by many, collective efforts can revive it and bring it back to its past glory.

"Jesus Christ's language Aramaic is now used by only around 25 families in Syria. But one of the biggest blockbusters in the history of world cinema, 'Passion of Christ' was made in that language. Its

success shows that a good movie will definitely strike a chord with audience even if it is in a dead language," he said.

"Besides my love for Sanskrit, I do not think any other language can convey the personal and poetic life of Unnayi Warrier so intensely," Mankara said.

Mankara, who directed two feature films and over 600 documentaries, said the movie is also a tribute to the great poet, who is yet to get due recognition from literary buffs even many centuries after his death.

"I carried out a thorough research on Unnayi Warrier for three to four years to collect maximum details about his life. But it was shocking to know that there were very little documents and writings on him. Not even a befitting memorial for the great poet is anywhere in the state," he said.

Hailing from Irinjalakuda in the present Thrissur district, Unnayi Warrier was a scholar, poet and playwright who was believed to be a contemporary of legendary Kunchan Nambiar, the master of satire poetry in Malayalam.

Warrier's 'Nalacharitham', which deals with the Mahabharata anecdote on King Nala and his wife Damayanthi, is considered as one of the most romantic works of art,written on the format of Kathakali, the classical dance-drama of Kerala.

Mankara said the movie would chronicle Warrier's life during the one year which he had spent at the palace of the Travancore king to write "Nalacharitham".

"My movie is an attempt to read the life of Warrier through his work Nalacharitham. When we go deep into the aattakatha, we can feel that the work was also the life story of the author. The pain and sufferings he faced can be read between the lines," he said.

Though the movie is a biopic of Warrier, a number of dramatic sequences are included in it to visualise the real self of the legendary writer.

"For example, there is a scene in which all characters in the Nalacharitham come live in the costume of Kathakali and converse with the writer. It will depict the conflicts undergone by Warrier as a creative writer and an ordinary human being," he said.

The "Ottamandaram" director said though the movie is to be told in a subjective manner, he is not ready to compromise in its historical aspects as it is a period film.

"We have collected as much as details about the costumes, ornaments, instruments and other articles belonging to the 17th century. Artisans of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu have created ornaments for the movie," he said.

Cinema-TV actor Rajesh Hebbar essays the role of Unnayi Warrier, the protagonist while Kannada actress and Kuchipudi dancer Pratheeksha Kashi is the female lead. the movie is produced by Baby Mathew Somatheeram.

"We are planning to premier the movie at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. There are also plans to take it to reputed international festivals," the director said.

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