|Directed by||Kamal Haasan|
|Produced by||Kamal Haasan|
|Written by||Kamal Haasan
|Cinematography||Ravi K. Chandran|
Marudhanayagam is a long-delayed high budget Indian historical drama film directed and produced by Kamal Haasan. The film, which started in October 1997 with an exclusive launch by Queen Elizabeth II, originally pulled together several prominent names across Indian cinema as its principal cast and crew. However, since the launch, the film despite rumours of resurfacing, is yet to resume its shoot.
- Kamal Haasan as Muhammed Yusuf Khan
- Vishnuvardhan as Wajid Khan
- Amrish Puri
Kamal Haasan had been pondering directing a historical film for a period of four to five years and unsuccessfully contemplated doing a historical musical on the lines of Ambikapathy, with the idea of making a film which had only verses for dialogue. Writer Sujatha then suggested Kamal Haasan looked at a folk ballad edited by Tamil scholar Vanamamalai, which introduced them to the historical figure of Muhammed Yusuf Khan, an 18th-century warrior. Kamal Haasan immediately agreed at the prospect and felt that the story had all the potential of a good historical film, being appealed to by the elevation from the nadir to the top of Khan's life. Sujatha revealed that nearly 80% of the film would faithfully adapt Samuel Charles Hill's biography of Khan also known as Marudha Nayagam, and to only use imagination where no solid or substantial information is available such as his conversion to Islam. The team in 1998, for the first time in India, planned to use a computer for screenplay writing, using a particular software called the Movie Magic Screenwriter with Sujatha working as a screenplay doctor. French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière was also involved in readying the screenplay for the film, as was historian S. Muthiah and poets Puviarasu and Gnanakoothan.
The producers and Kamal Haasan managed to rope in Queen Elizabeth II to appear as the chief guest at the launch of the project which took place in the MGR Film City on 16 October 1997. The Queen had spent 20 minutes on the sets of the film, with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, politicians S. Jaipal Reddy and G. K. Moopanar, maverick journalist Cho Ramaswamy and veteran actors Sivaji Ganesan and Amrish Puri also in attendance. A teaser was shown at the launch, with a pilot video consisting of a battle scene which would feature for a few minutes in the film, with the production of the particular scene costing Kamal Hassan ₹ 1.5 crores alone. In November 1997, it was reported that the film would cost almost ₹85 crore to make (equivalent of ₹650 crore in 2017 prices) and would subsequently become the most expensive Indian film production till then The music for the trailer of the film was composed by Karthik Raja in late 1997, when Kamal Haasan and he were working together in Kaathala Kaathala.
The original cast included Vishnuvardhan who played Wajid Khan with Nassar, Om Puri, Amrish Puri also given pivotal roles. Om Puri pulled out of the film in mid-1998 due to prior commitments and Sathyaraj replaced him in the film. When the film was postponed, the team were still waiting to hear back from actors Amitabh Bachchan and Rajinikanth who were approached to play guest roles. Kate Winslet was offered the lead female role of Marsha, but her rejection led to the makers casting a French debutant. Actor Pasupathy, who has since gone on to appear in successful films, was set to make his debut with the film in the role of an antagonist and had shot for five days. Furthermore, actor-director R. C. Sakthi was signed on to essay a supporting role.
The technical team included costume designer Sarika, Kamal Haasan's wife at the time of production, who made a trip to several world museums to get details about the costumes of the British during the 18th century. The make-up duties for the film were shared between Michael Westmore and his apprentice Barry Cooper, with the pair training several Indian make-up artistes during the film's pre-production stages. The graphics of the film were controlled by Pentafour, whose work had been critically acclaimed in Shankar's Jeans. Sabu Cyril was appointed head of art direction with Prabhakaran being one of his assistants, while television director Sundar K. Vijayan and G. N. R. Kumaravelan were signed on as second unit directors. Ravi K. Chandran was signed on ahead of Santosh Sivan and P. C. Sriram as cinematographer for the film, heading a team including apprentices Ravi Varman and Keshav Prakash while dancer Birju Maharaj was announced as the choreographer. It was announced that music composing would be a collaborative effort between Ilaiyaraaja and Andrew Lloyd Webber with prominent Carnatic singer, M. S. Subbalakshmi also singing for the film. Classical violinist L. Subramaniam had turned down the opportunity to compose the background score for the film, with Ilaiyaraaja subsequently replacing him.
The launch also saw the inaugural shot canned with Kamal Haasan, in the persona of Marudhanayagam, hearing and reacting to an imperial announcement read out by the character played by Nassar, with Om Puri's character looking on. For the test shoot in Jaipur, Sarika arranged up to 7,000 costumes and accessories to be ready. Official filming began several months later in Velangudi on 10 August 1998 with a scene of where a companion of the lead character, played by Kamal Haasan, is hanged prompting a brief altercation.
The film ran into production trouble in November 1998, when a sector of the Tamil community alleged that the film would contain historical misinterpretations of one of the community's historical icons. Furthermore, another section argued that the film is a distortion of history and that the central character would be portrayed as a hero of the struggle against the British instead of the traitor they felt he was. The allegations prompted Kamal Haasan to abandon extensive sets erected in Karaikudi, in interior Tamil Nadu, and shift to Chalakudy, in Kerala, to continue work on the project.
Works on Marudhanayagam suddenly ceased after a British company that had planned to co-produce the film backed out and the film has been indefinitely postponed since. Haasan had invested ₹ 8 crores of his own wealth into the project through and has since revealed that the film would be revived at a future date. In a turn of events, Haasan announced in November 1999 that shooting will resume in six months after contracts of the technicians and actors were sorted, adding that a French version of the film will also be released.
Haasan met American producers during his visit to Los Angeles in June 2006 to try to find a financier for the film, but talks were unfruitful. In June 2008, Haasan suggested that the film would be revived after the completion of his directorial venture, Marmayogi, but within months Marmayogi was shelved after pre-production. A two-minute soundless trailer of the film surfaced on the internet in January 2008, with critics claiming that there are "scenes which have the grandeur that stuns you instantly" and that "the visuals are astonishing." Haasan announced that he intended on restarting work on the film in 2012, mentioning that the film could be made within a budget of Rs 150 crore, and may feature contemporary leading actor Rajinikanth in another role. Reports again suggested in 2013 that Haasan would resume the film in 2014 following the completion of his directorial venture, but reports were once again baseless. In 2014, film maker Kothanda Ramaiah made a public call to Fox Star Studios and other large production companies to consider reviving the project. Kamal Haasan revealed that Allirajah Subaskaran of Lyca Productions had expressed interest in financing the project during late 2015, but restarting the venture would involve extensive pre-production works and he would collaborate with Lyca Productions on a different venture first.
The delay of the film has been subject to references in media and film. In Venkat Prabhu's Saroja, the character played by Premji Amaren supposedly stumbles upon a DVD of Marudhanayagam, while in M. Rajesh's Siva Manasula Sakthi, Santhanam's character mockingly asks for a song from the shelved film to be played on the radio. Director A. L. Vijay revealed that Marudhanayagam was the inspiration behind his successful 2009 film, Madrasapattinam, based on India's Independence movement in 1947.
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