The legend of Karinthandan, a mythical character for the Paniya tribe in Kerala’s Wayanad district, is on its way to the big screen courtesy filmmaker Leela Santhosh. Karinthanandan’s role is being played by Malayalam actor Vinayakan, who won the Kerala State Film Award for Best Actor in 2016 for Rajeev Ravi’s crime drama Kammatipaadam. The first look of Karinthandan was released by the filmmaking group Collective Phase One on July 5.

“The scripting works of the film are over and pre-production has just been launched,” Santhosh told The Hindu. “Our plan is to bring out the film by December. One of the directors of Phase One Collective [Collective Phase One] Madhu Neelakandan helm the camera.”

Vinayakan as Karinthandan. Image credit: Collective Phase One.

Karinthandan, believed to have lived between 1700 and 1750, was the chieftain of the Paniyas in Chippilithod near the Thamarassery ghats. Karinthandan is said to have discovered the Wayanad Ghat route. Folklore has it that when the Viceroy announced a reward for anyone who could build a road across the way, a British engineer took advantage of Karinthandan and shot him dead.

The people in Wayanad have since continued to believe that the place is haunted by Karinthandan’s ghost. His soul is believed to live in a banyan tree, called Changala Maram (Chain Tree) in Malayalam.

“He [Karinthanandan] was a legend and not someone who helped invaders, as is often depicted by non-Adivasis,” Santhosh told in 2017. “Several misconceptions about him continue to exist and I will try to address the same.”

The Wayanad that existed between 1750 and 1799 has to be recreated, Santhosh added. “For the general public, their idea of a tribal person is someone who lived in forest caves before, and is now someone who is a drunkard. That’s how people see us,” Santhosh, who is of tribal origin, told The News Minute. “They think tribal people are not intelligent, that they are lesser humans. Through this film, I believe I can change the way people perceive the tribal communities.”

Santhosh has previously directed the documentary Nizhalukal Nashtappedunna Gothrabhumi (2010), about the life and rituals of the Paniyas of Wayanad.