Thiruvananthapuram: Hamlet, one of the most prominent of William Shakespeare's tragedies, has been adapted into a Malayalm movie for the first time.
The story of the Prince of Denmark, stung by "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune", is retold in the film 'Karmayogi', set for release next month. Directed by well-known filmmaker V K Prakash, the locale of the film has been shifted to contemporary Kerala even as it essentially follows the story line of Hamlet.
The film has all the important characters and situations of the Shakespearean play, though narrated in the backdrop of life and cultural settings of the Malabar region (northern Kerala), known for its centuries old martial art tradition 'Kalariypayattu', hero worship and folk lore.
The film focuses on the core themes of the Shakespearean tragedy like indecision, revenge, deception, ambition and loyalty revolving round the hero Rudran, a Kalaripayattu (a martial art) exponent.
Like the tragic prince, Rudran is also faced with betrayals and reversal of fortune in his life after the death of his father Rudran Valiyagurukkal, the head of the Chathothu taravadu (village manor).
"Adapting for film a play like 'Hamlet' is certainly a big challenge for any filmmaker. But, that has been my greatest dream and I enjoyed every bit of the challenge," Prakash told PTI.
Shakespeare's 'Othello' and 'Antony and Cleopatra' have already been adapted into films in Malayalam under the titles 'Kaliyaattam' and 'Kannaki' respectively and they were directed by well-known filmmaker Jayaraj.
\"Hamlet is generally considered as the most complex drama by the master playwright as its story is mostly revealed through the mental state of characters. But, that complexity, actually, attracted me to it," he said.
'Karmayogi' has a huge star cast comprising Bollywood actress Padmini Kolhapuri, Nithya Menon, Saiju Kurup, Thalaivasal Vijay and Ashokan depicting local versions of the original Shakespearean characters like Queen Gertrude, Claudius, Ophelia, Polonius and Laertes.
While Belram Mattanoor penned the script, noted south Indian cinematographer R D Rajasekhar has wielded the camera. 'Karmayogi' explores the story through the 'Yogi' community, a section known for their martial art talents, in north Kerala.
According to local lore, the male members of the community are known as 'Kelipatras', avatars of Lord Shiva who, as per legend, took birth as man in Varanasi and begged for 12 years after being cursed by Lord Vishnu for chopping the fifth head of Lord Brahma, the creator.
Like Shiva, the elder members of 'Yogi' community will also go begging in a particular stage in their lives to fulfill their tradition, leaving behind wealth and other material possessions.
In the film, Rudran's father has become a 'Kelipatra' and after his murder, Rudran decides to follow in his father's footsteps. But, he has to face many hurdles on his path before fulfilling his goal of becoming a 'Kelipatra'.
Actor Indrajith plays the role of Rudran, the embodiment of Prince Hamlet. Excited about the role, he says Rudran will become a milestone in his acting career.
"Getting such a major role is a dream-come-true for every actor. I am a great fan of Shakespeare and had done some of his characters in school drams. When I was offered the lead role, it is natural to be excited," Indrajith said.
The characters of both father and son – Rudran Valiagurukkal and Rudran - are played by Indrajith. As the King Hamlet (the prince's father) in Shakespeare's play, Rudran Valiagurukkal appears only in very few scenes in the film, especially in dreams of Rudran, the son.
Apart from Kalarippayattu, it also features folk arts like Poorakkali and Kazchapayattu, which are unique to the Malabar region. "Some fight sequences in the movie are a blend of Kalarippayattu and Chinese martial arts," the actor said.
Though the film is an adaptation of Hamlet, it is not a scene-by-scene copy of the play. The director and script writer have taken their freedom in building the story line.
"For example, some episodes in the play are told in a different manner in the movie, diverting from the original text. The exact period of the story is not mentioned in the film," said director Prakash.