Actor Prithviraj Sukumaran and director Aashiq Abu have walked out of Vaariyamkunnan, an upcoming Malayalam film based on the life of Variyankunnathu Kunjahammed Haji, who led the Malabar Rebellion between 1921 and 1922 in northern Kerala.
Abu told PTI that the duo has withdrawn from the project due to differences with producers. There has so far been no comment on the issue from the producers’ end.
Vaariyamkunnan was announced in June 2020 as a production of Zikandar Moideen’s Compass Movies LTD in association with Abu’s OPM Cinemas. The project was to be directed by Abu and Muhsin Parari with Harshad and Rameez on board as writers.
Prithviraj, who was supposed to play the role of Haji, had said in a social media post, “He (Haji) stood up against an empire that ruled a quarter of the world. Etched out his own country with an army that waged a never-before war against the British. Though history was burned and buried, the legend lived on! The legend of a leader, a soldier, a patriot. A film on the man who became the face of the 1921 Malabar revolution. #Vaariyamkunnan. Filming begins in 2021. On the 100th anniversary.”
Soon after this announcement, religious outfits like Hindu Aikya Vedi criticised the actor for agreeing to perform the role of the Muslim leader who, they claimed, had committed crimes against the Hindu community. RSS and other Sangh organisations also alleged that it was a deliberate attempt by a particular community to glorify Haji.
Later, the film’s scriptwriter Rameez temporarily withdrew from the project after he was called out for some controversial and misogynistic social media posts. Though he claimed that there was “slanderous propaganda” going on against him, he said that since the issue was affecting the producers of the film, he had decided to step away from the project until the allegations against him were proven wrong.
It is notable that three other directors, PT Kunjahammed, Ibrahim Vengara and Akbar Ali, have also announced films based on the controversial figure Haji.
Meanwhile, The Hindu recently reported that a three-member panel has recommended the deletion of the names of the Malabar Rebellion leaders, including Variamkunnath Kunhamed Haji, Ali Musaliar and 387 other ‘Moplah martyrs’, after reviewing the entries in the fifth volume of Dictionary of Martyrs of India’s Freedom Struggle. The panel felt that the 1921 rebellion was never part of the independence struggle but a fundamentalist movement focused on religious conversion.