Lohitadas a lesson on the importance of talent, luck and perseverance | show news

It has been 13 years since AK Lohitadas passed away, considered one of the best screenwriters in Malayalam cinema. June 28 was the anniversary of AK Lohitadas’ death and I kept thinking about him. How quickly time passes! I am sure that to this day it holds an important place in the hearts of all Malayalee moviegoers. Although we cannot remember everyone who has left us, there are some rare people who are always in our memory for their overwhelming kindness. Lohitadas was one of those people.

Although he didn’t have many friends in the industry, there were a handful of friends that he treasured, who stood by him through his good and bad days, and were his greatest treasures. She knew who to keep at a distance and who to trust. Even during his last days, she kept them in the dark about his ailments.

It was shocking to hear that he did not even tell his wife and children about his deteriorating health.

How did this happen all of a sudden?

His writing process was interesting. She would lock herself in a room for days, cover her head with a cloth, recite the dialogues and write her experiences on paper. Director Sibi Malayil once told me that some of her best work came out of a space of extreme mental stress. That was also one of the reasons behind her untimely death.

Lohitadas debuted in cinema in 1987, this was 6 or 7 years after I came to Malayalam cinema. Although it was Thilakan who introduced it to Malayalam cinema, I would like to think that I also played a small role in bringing it to the cinema. In 1986, when I was preparing to go to Mata Tourist Home, I received a call from Sevichan of Vijaya Movies.

“Dennis, yesterday we heard a story written by a new guy. The story is beautiful, why don’t you listen to it too? If you liked it, we’ll buy it for you. If you are not too busy, can you come to the office at 11 am?”

I took a minute to think. I was putting together Joshiy’s ‘January Oru Orma’ in the order of the scenes. But I can’t deny such request as I had written Vijay Movies productions like ‘Kottinilam Kili’ and ‘Oru Nokku Kaanan’. And they had also given the advance to write a new movie. I was still in the process of finding a story when this call came through. We agreed to meet at 11 am.

When I walked down in front of the Vijaya Movies office in Pullepadi, I saw a slightly bulky man with a long beard and hair who had stuffed a newspaper under his arm. Seeing me, he showed an awkward smile. Waiting for me in the office were Vijaya’s film producers, Babu Xavier, Savichan and Joli. Since his father Xavier, sir, had heard the story, he didn’t show up. They sent the peon to call the young man.

The first thing I noticed was a look of indifference on his face. They offered him a chair next to me. “Don’t you know Kaloor Dennis? He has written the script for most of our movies.”

He looked at me and nodded.

“This is the new screenwriter Lohitakshan. He has written plays.

I smiled at him. But even though he wanted to return that smile, he seemed too eager. Perhaps he was worried about the outcome of this meeting.

“Okay, let’s not waste any more time. Lohitakshan, tell that story to Dennis.

He took his time telling the story. But his narrative was different. She narrated it without frills.

It was a family thing. At the time she was also writing mostly about family topics. The story was about marital discord. I liked. There was something new about it. But towards the climax, I felt like it had a certain similarity to my super hit ‘Sandarbham’. Although the producers also had the same opinion, they did not share it with Lohitakshan.

But I mentioned that to him. She nodded her head nonchalantly.

“But that’s fine. We can make some changes to the climax. Let’s do this story,” I told everyone.

Babu Xavier immediately handed him a token advance of Rs 1,000 and said, “Keep this. After he comes back with a rewritten climax, and if it goes well, we can fix his compensation.”

He pocketed that money. During that time, that’s the most a screenwriter was given as an advance. And his payment did not exceed 5,000 rupees.

He sat there for a few minutes and then left promising to return in a week with a rewritten climax. We sat there for some time and discussed the casting. Mammootty and Shobana were finished.

Before I left they gave me an advance. Since I was quite busy during those days, I agreed to write a script before the shooting of ‘January Oru Orma’.

But Lohitakshan did not appear with the promised rewritten climax even after 2 weeks. We had no number to contact him. Although there was a suggestion to go to Chalakudy to meet him, it somehow didn’t happen. Ultimately, that project was shelved due to various reasons, including Mammootty’s date issues.

It took AK Lohitadas another 4-5 months to make a comeback, but this time as a screenwriter for Sibi Malayil’s ‘Thaniyavarthanam’. He had a cool story. Lohitadas was also making Sibi Malayil’s next film. Since Mammootty was the hero of both movies, luck seems to be favoring the young man.

When the new theme was discussed, although Lohi mentioned that it was a story she had told Vijaya Movies, after Mammootty claimed that they had scrapped the project, Lohitadas decided to make the film for Sibi Malayil. That movie was called ‘Vicharana’.

During the time of its release, Vijaya Movies threatened to file a lawsuit against Lohitadas. They were furious that he would go ahead with a project without consulting them or even bothering to repay the advance amount. Since he was a newcomer, he was not aware of such legal problems. Although they demanded a sum greater than the amount of the advance, matters were finally resolved after Mammootty’s intervention.

Lohitadas went on to become an irreplaceable presence in Malayalam cinema with films like ‘Kireedom’, ‘Chenkol’, ‘Bharatham’, ‘Mrigaya’, ‘Amaram’, ‘Kamaladalam’, ‘Sallapam’, ‘Kauravar’ and ‘Veendum Chila Veetu Karyangal’.

In 1997 he became a director with ‘Bhoothakkanadi’. That film won that year’s state award for best screenplay. Lohitadas became the most celebrated screenwriter in Malayalam cinema.

After that first meeting, although we never really got together, we used to meet occasionally at MACTA meetings and exchange notes. I last met Lohi at the 2007 MACTA protest meeting. That was my first visit after amputating my leg. I was resting at the BTH Hotel when directors Kamal, Sibi Malayil and Lohitadas came to meet me. Lohi came and sat on my bed. He sat quietly for some time and looked at me. I felt that his mind was in chaos.

“I heard everything.” They were as soft and moving as the words she would write for his movies. Today Lohi is not with us and I consider it a macabre joke of God. He made stars out of fireflies and his life is a lesson to all artists about the importance of sheer talent, luck and perseverance.

I heard that he was going through a lot of emotional trauma during his last days. I don’t think she’s someone who can live without the remnants of the past. “When he was alive there were so many people who criticized me and hurt me emotionally. Everyone will recognize the artist in me after my death,” he had said.

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