‘Creative freedom restricted by cloaking it in religion’


Haasyam, Jayaraj’s penultimate work in the ‘Navarasa’ series, part of IFFK’s International Competition section

Award-winning filmmaker Jayaraj has been a genre hopper of sorts. From outright crowd-pleasers like Johnnie Walker and Thilakkam to the ambitious ‘Navarasa’ series, the filmmaker has swung between extremes while being pilloried for his alleged affinity towards right wing politics. Attending the Kochi leg of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) where Haasyam, his penultimate work in the ‘Navarasa’ series, was screened in the International Competition section, Jayaraj talks about his works and the present climate of fear hampering creative freedom.

Do you think filmmaking is being straitjacketed by the prevailing political climate?

There is a sense of fear that wasn’t there in the past. One has to think before doing anything. The creative freedom is being restricted by cloaking it in religion, which is the biggest tragedy of the supposedly progressive times. I try to steer away from potentially controversial things, which in itself is a lack of creative freedom.

With the ambitious ‘Navarasa’ series nearing completion with only one more film left to be made, is there a sense of emptiness? Which was the most challenging work?

That is something I ask myself. It is the same feeling as a sprinter who has breached the record and is left with nothing more to achieve. I will be content if I am able to finish that series. It has to be Karunam as it featured an aged couple in a restricted space. Apart from Karunam in the ‘Navarasa’ series, Deshadanam was my other major experiment and and both were well received and successful financially as well.

You were often accused of being a right wing camp follower. Did you ever feel restricted creatively by that labelling?

I have been accused of different things at different times. I could be called the most rebellious Leftist for making a film like 4 the People while I am stamped a right winger to this day for making Paithrukam.

What are your plans for the next movie, Sringara, the last one in the ‘Navarasa’ series?

I am still undecided as it has many shades. I even spoke with MT sir [M.T. Vasudevan Nair] on what constitutes the right interpretation of Sringara. I had a somewhat similar dilemma in the making of Haasyam (humour), which also has many shades before I decided on black humour.

I have just completed shooting the movie Niraye Thathakalulla Maram, which is an independent movie, and the edit is under way.

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