Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham - 2020 Malayalam Historical Epic

Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham – 2021 Malayalam Historical Epic

Movie Name: Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham
Directed by: Priyadarshan
Starring: Mohanlal, Suniel Shetty, Arjun Sarja, Keerthy Suresh, Prabhu, Suhasini Maniratnam, Manju Warrier
Genre: ActionHistoryWarDrama
Release Date: 02 December 2021
Running Time: 181 Minutes
Budget: ₹100 crore

Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham, also known as Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea, is an upcoming Indian Malayalam-language historical epic war film co-written and directed by Priyadarshan. Set in the 16th century, the film is based on the battle exploits of Kunjali Marakkar IV—the naval chieftain of the Zamorin of Calicut. Kunjali Marakkars organised the first ever naval defense of the Indian coast by defending Portuguese invasion at the Malabar Coast for almost a century. The screenplay was co-written by Ani Sasi. The film was produced by Aashirvad Cinemas with Moonshot Entertainments and Confident Group as co-producers. The film stars Mohanlal in the title role as Kunjali Marakkar IV. Principal photography began on 1 December 2018 and concluded in late March 2019, with a bulk of the film shot at Ramoji Film City, Hyderabad. It is the most expensive Malayalam film ever made, with a budget of ₹100 crore; scheduled to be released worldwide on 26 March 2020.

Film Development:

Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham was originally planned by Priyadarshan with screenwriter T. Damodaran in 1996 with Mohanlal in the title role. The idea for the film originated and was discussed in length at the sets of Mohanlal-starring Kaalapani (1996) in Kozhikode. But due to budget constraints, it did not progress, “back then, our industry [Malayalam cinema] size was very limited and most producers weren’t ready to invest hugely in such big ventures”, said Priyadarshan. But the project was still in their mind. During 2008 – 2009, director Jayaraj planned a film on Kunjali Marakkar with Mohanlal in the title role and T. P. Rajeevan was hired to write the screenplay. After extensive research and discussions it was ready to begin production and the completed screenplay was handed over to Mohanlal, who did not show interest and the project did not materialize. That screenplay was later bought by August Cinema from Rajeevan for making a separate project with different cast and crew.

In 2013, Priyadarshan revealed that in addition to a Hindi film, he is working on a Malayalam period film about Kunjali Marakkar with Mohanlal in the title role for which the research work was undergoing. On 1 November 2017, Priyadarshan confirmed to The Times of India that he would start the project after completing a Hindi film first and the ongoing research would require at least 10 more months to complete. They had to look deeper into history as what was gathered until then was information very much available to the public. It was undecided then on which Kunjali Marakkar would Mohanlal portray out of the four Marakkars. Priyadarshan said the story he would come up would be a mix of fact and fiction, as the information about many of the incidents happened during that era are unavailable. Priyadarshan zeroed in on Kunjali Marakkar IV as the protagonist as he “has the most interesting story”. The story spans from 1505 to 1601 period.

Title of the film was officially announced at a press conference held at Kochi on 28 April 2018 by Priyadarshan, Mohanlal, producer Antony Perumbavoor and co-producers Santhosh T. Kuruvilla and Roy C. J.. Budget was revealed to be ₹100 crore, making it the most-expensive film made in Malayalam cinema—produced under the company Aashirvad Cinemas, with Moonshot Entertainments and Confident Group as co-producers. It was said to begin production on 1 November 2018 on the day of Kerala Piravi.

Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham – Movie Trailer

Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham – Movie Review

Mohanlal’s film ‘Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham’ is ambitious but underwhelming

Priyadarshan’s highly anticipated period epic Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham is a refreshing departure from the kind of films the filmmaker is known for. It attempts to tell the heroic and fearless story of Kunjali Marakkar, an admiral in Cochin’s King’s fleet, who played a key role in the war against the Portuguese. The film is ambitious on all accounts but it lacks the kind of writing or even moments that set it apart from a film like Baahubali.

Relying on predictable scenes and bland drama, big budgeted Marakkar never lives up to the hype that the promos had promised, and ends up as a tiring, underwhelming film in which majority of the actors (in their 50s) struggle to make one action sequence that could leave you in awe.

Mohanlal plays Muhammed Ali alias Kunjali Marakkar from the royal Marakkar clan. The Marakkars dedicated their life to fight the invasion of Portuguese on Cochin, and Kunjali is the last heir of the family who spends most of his life as a pirate after his entire family is killed right in front of his eyes by the Portuguese armymen.

Kunjali vows to take revenge and becomes the messiah for the poor. He robs from the rich and distributes the loot among the poor. The Portuguese plan on taking over the kingdom of Cochin by waging a war, and the only person who can stop them is Kunjali, who is widely popular for his war tactics at sea. When Kunjali decides to join hands with the king of Cochin, little does he expect that he has a big price to pay.

Marakkar, apart from depending on lazy writing, also lacks a singular element that could have made a film of this scale truly memorable. There isn’t a single scene in the movie that makes you sit up in your seat and stare in amazement. Except for the two action sequences, which are just okay, it feels like a chore to sit through rest of the film which also feels bloated at three hours long. The action episodes were talked about as one of the highlights, but it is so boring to watch most of these actors struggle to pull off these scenes convincingly.

Priyadarshan fills the film with so many characters that you spend most of the viewing time trying to remember who plays who. Keerthy Suresh and Manju Warrier don’t get the kind of roles they deserve. Then there are Suniel Shetty and Arjun Sarja, two of the fittest actors in the country today but they aren’t used effectively in the action scenes either. Pranav Mohanal plays the younger version of his father, and he owns the initial 20 odd minutes of the movie with his charming screen presence.

There’s a lot of conflict between the key characters but sadly, you don’t feel it in the scenes. You sense that one character doesn’t wish good for the other, but the writing makes these scenes so lifeless. Even the ever-reliable Mohanlal struggles to keep the film afloat as he’s hardly convincing in the most crucial emotional scenes of the movie. It’s as though he was least interested in embracing the character of Marakkar, which could’ve been written and handled better. As you leave the cinema hall, you really begin to question what indeed earned this film a National Award.

Movie on Islamist Kunjali Marakkar IV sparks row ahead of its release: Read why

With just 3 weeks away from its scheduled release, the film has courted controversy over its ‘glorification’ of Kunjali Marakkar IV.

A contentious Malayalam film titled, ‘Marakkar: Arabikkadalinte Simham‘ is set to hit the theatres on December 2 this year. The movie is based on the ‘heroics’ of Mohammed Ali, the fourth Muslim naval chief (Kunjali Marakkar) of the Zamorin (hereditary ruler) of Calicut. It is the most expensive Malayalam film to date, produced with a budget of ₹100 crores.

With just 3 weeks away from its scheduled release, the film has courted controversy over its ‘glorification’ of Kunjali Marakkar IV. A Twitter user named Kamath (@durga_dasa) pointed out, “Funny to see Hindus obsess with movie Kunjali Marakkar: The Lion of Arabian sea glorifying Kunjali Marakkar IV who betrayed Zamorin, tried to establish an Islamic regime in Malabar with help from Bijapur Sultan & other Islamists.”

Kunjali Marakkar IV, betrayal to Hindu Samoothiris and downfall

As per a research article in Swatantra, the Zamorin (also called Samoothiri) were the hereditary rulers of the Kingdom of Calicut in the Southern Malabar region of Kerala. During the 16th century, the Hindu monarch had permitted Muslims to settle down, preach and propagate Islam with absolute freedom within the Kingdom. The Samoothiris had appointed four Muslim naval commanders (also called Kunjali Marakkar) between 1507 and 1600 to defend the Kingdom against attacks by a strong Portuguese navy.

The Malayalam film named, ‘Marakkar: Arabikkadalinte Simham’ is based on the ‘heroics’ of Mohammed Ali, who was the Kunjali Marakkar IV between the period 1595 – 1600. Although the Kunjali Marakkars are celebrated in the Southern Malabar region for their valour and often dubbed as ‘freedom fighters’, it is not commonly known that they had betrayed the Samoothiris. After defeating the Portuguese, the Kunali Marakkar IV became arrogant and declared himself as the ‘independent ruler’ of the Malabar Muslims.

Historian KV Krishna Ayyar stated, “The implicit confidence and the wholehearted loyalty of the former days had been gradually impaired by jealousy, fear and uncertainty. Further, the behaviour of the Moplah hero also tended to precipitate a crisis. Success turned his head. He was indiscreet enough to style himself king of the Moors and Lord of the Indian Seas, and to waylay ships bound for Calicut and levy blackmail. He had even the audacity to cut off the tail of one of the elephants belonging to the Zamorin. And when asked to explain his conduct, he added insult to injury by ill-treating the Nayar whom the king had sent.”

“None could number the cruel barbarities practised by him and his against all sorts and conditions of men, without distinction: among others, against his own neighbour, the Nair king Auriole, already mentioned, whom he robbed and pillaged and drove from his kingdom: he cut off the nose and breasts of that prince’s queen, and had himself acknowledged as king. At length, puffed up with prosperity, he would no longer recognize the Samory, and rebelled against him, refusing to deliver up some vessels of his subjects that he had taken; and when commanded so to do, he set all such commands at nought,” read the brief account of French navigator François Pyrard de Laval.

Swatantra highlighted how the same naval commander had not only challenged the authority of Samoothiris but also attacked the subjects of the Kingdom of Calicut. Mohammed Ali also regarded himself as the Lord of the Indian sea and the King of the Moplahs. As such, the Samoothiris forged a treaty with the Portuguese and defeated Kunjali Marakkar IV and brought an end to the saga of Muslim naval commanders. 500 years later, the betrayal of Mohammed Ali is being celebrated in the form of the upcoming film ‘Marakkar: Arabikkadalinte Simham.’

Twitter user Kamanth (@durga_dasa) had shared an article by Deepa Thomas where it was suggested that Kunjali Marakkar IV was not patriotic or anti-imperialist, as propagated in the media. Instead, Deepa Thomas had stated that there was enough evidence to suggest that Mohammed Ali betrayed the Hindu Samoothiris in the interest of religion.

Kamath also highlighted how Malayali director Priyadarshan and actor Mohanlal had made the film,’ Marakkar: Arabikkadalinte Simham’ with little regard to their Hindu Nair ancestry, which had suffered genocide at the hands of the Malabar Islamists.

Family of Kunjali Marakkar IV had raised objection against the movie

In March last year, one descendant of the Islamist Kunjali Marakkar IV had moved the Kerala High Court to stop the release of the Malayalam film. The petitioner, Mufeeda Arafath Marakkar, had accused the filmmakers of portraying a distorted version of history and presenting the Muslim naval commander in a ‘perverted light.’ He had alleged the 16th century Islamist had been presented as a romantic hero and a ‘dancer who sang songs with women.’

“The movie shows the perverted attire of Kunjali Marakkar. He was a pious Muslim and his attire was according to the religious tenets of his time. However, the leaflet shows him sporting an image of Lord Ganapaty in the centre of his turban. As pointed out by Portuguese historians, Kunjali Marakkar and his 40 lieutenants were promised pardon by the Portuguese if they embraced Christianity but they opted death to conversion. In movie, fiction is allowed to a lesser extent, but it cannot distort the original history,” the petition read.

The petitioner had claimed that Mohammed Ali was a bachelor and had no love affairs. He had accused the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) of awarding U/A certification to the film without any application of mind.

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