Though coronavirus scare is delaying indefinitely its global release, Kunjali Marakkar: Arabaikkadalinte Simham (Kunjali Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea) a Mohanlal-starrer Malayalam biopic with Hindi, Chinese, Tamil, Arabic, Telugu and Kannada versions of a 16th century hero beheaded by Portuguese invaders in the fight for supremacy on the western coast has attracted controversy with descendants of the martyr accusing the filmmakers of wilfully distorting facts of history with the sole objective of making money.

The most expensive Malayalam film ever, the film is an Rs 100 crore venture of popular director Priyadarsan that attempts to tell the sagacity of Kunjali Marakkar IV, naval chieftain of Zamorin and hereditary monarch of the kingdom of Kozhikode.

Also starring Sunil Shetty, Arjun Sarje, Prabhu, Suhasini and Manju Warrier, the film took about two years to create. But as soon as its advertisements and teasers started coming out, the young generation in the Marakkar family tree spread in the Payyoli-Kottakkal-Koyilandi regions of Kerala’s Kozhikode district started expressing their discontent. They have initiated a legal war against the film by approaching the Kerala High Court. The court will soon consider the petition.

In an exclusive interaction with The Citizen, Marakkar family member Mufeeda Arafat Marakkar said she was forced to file a case against the film in the court after seeing stills of Mohanlal donning the role of Marakkar IV.

“As per information we gathered from the filmmakers using our sources, the big budget movie with mega stars is giving a wrong message to scholars, researchers and historians on the Marakkar family, which courageously fought the Portuguese invasion by coordinating effectively with then different rulers in the entire south on behalf of Zamorin.

“In the movie, Mohanlal’s son Pranav appears to perform the younger days of Kunjali Marakkar IV, the most valiant and courageous among the Marakkars, traditional experts in naval wars. Pranav portrays Kunjali Marakkar IV as a romantic hero who dances and sings songs with women. He also falls in love with a girl in the cinema.

“Historians have written a lot with authenticity on Kunjali Marakkar IV and as per their descriptions, the chieftain never ever danced with women or sung songs. A chronic bachelor, he never fell in love,’’ said Mufeeda Marakkar.

According to her, Priyadarsan’s daughter Kalyani plays the role of the woman with whom Marakkar IV falls in love.

Kerala school textbooks carry detailed descriptions of the brave fights of Kunjali Marakkar IV, and the family fears the film will create a wrong image of the freedom fighter in the minds of children in their formative years.

“Neither the director nor the scriptwriter approached the family seeking details on his life and times. It seems they have scant regard for authentic history. Kunjali Marakkar IV had always remained a bachelor and he had no love affairs till the end,’’ said Advocate K. Noorudhin Musaliyar, who appears in the High Court on behalf of Marakkar family members.

“A leaflet published by the filmmakers shows vulgar scenes of the great martyr and it causes disgrace to sagacity and dedication. Marakkar IV was a pious Muslim and his attire was in conformity to what existed in the community at that time. But posters and teasers of the film show him sporting an image of Lord Ganapathy in the centre of his turban, which looks almost similar to that of the Sikh community. Marakkar never used such a Sikh turban and he never carried images of Hindu lords,’’ said Muhammed Yasar Arafat, another family member.

As per the research of eminent historians K.N Panikkar and K.K.N Kurup, Kunjali Marakkar and his 40 lieutenants had preferred death when Portuguese invaders camped in Goa expressed their readiness to pardon them if they converted to Christianity. As devout Muslims who worked under the Hindu ruler Zamorin, they told the executioners they would not dilute their religious convictions.

“Fiction and imagination can be used in any biopic to a smaller extent. But that must not distort the whole history. The patriot who was beheaded in Goa on March 16, 1600 was a Muslim to the core. He never wore a Sikh turban or an image of Ganapathy. Also he had no love affairs. He never danced with women,’’ said Mufeeda Marakkar.

“The Central Board of Film Certification has given a U/A certificate for the movie without verifying its content,’’ she added.

According to Marakkar her father-in-law P.V Muhammed a research scholar wrote a book in Malayalam titled Ariyappedatha Kunjali Marakkar (The Unknown Kunjali Marakkar), but

“They have not even referred to that book. The attire of Marakkar’s lieutenants looks similar to that of present day religious extremists of Afghanistan. Why don’t they even attempt to research the dressing styles of north Kerala’s Muslims of those days?”