Magazine article Screen International

Santosh Sivan

Magazine article Screen International

Santosh Sivan

Article excerpt

The Indian director talks about his new project, Urumi, a period fantasy epic which is being made in English, Hindi and Malayalam versions.

A filmmaker from the south Indian state of Kerala, Sivan has earned international recognition with films such as The Terrorist, Before The Rains, co-produced with US-based Echo Lake Entertainment, and Kashmir-set Tahaan: A Boy With A Grenade.

He is currently working on an English-language international version of his new project, Urumi, a period epic about the fictional attempts of a group of Keralans - led by a local warrior and Muslim princess - to assassinate the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama. It's one of the first films to feature the ancient south Indian style of martial arts, Kalari, which uses several weapons including a flexible metal sword.

The film is produced by Sivan, the film's star Prithviraj, Shaji Nadesan and Mubina Rattonsey under their August Cinema banner. The cast also includes Genelia D'Souza, India-based US actor Alexx O'Nell and UK actor Robin Pratt. The Malayalam version was released in Kerala in April to strong box office and positive reviews.

So why did the Keralans want to assassinate Vasco da Gama?

Few people know that the history of India was changed because of a peppercorn. The Arabs were good traders in those days, but then Europe discovered that India had pepper and started fighting with the Muslim traders.

When Vasco da Gama came here he committed a lot of atrocities against Muslim traders. Even though there were warrior clans in India in those days, these people had a code of war and didn't know how to fight like Europeans.

But finally European war was upon them - the Portuguese were the first to come - and they came face-to-face with the gun and the cannon. So the movie is about that, and also the fact that Western people think of him as the man who discovered India, but for us he's an invader.

What's the budget of the film and how did you finance it?

It's quite high, but I don't want to put a figure on it, as we worked with people like Sony and Fuji who helped us out with in-kind services. When you have big stars and songs in the movie, the finance becomes easy. But within that you can also make an international version which can travel.

What is different about the international version?

It has a different story - you have a character from modern-day Britain who is researching Kalari warriors and discovers the true story of this first white man to come to India. …

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