Twenty years ago, it was around this time during Valentine’s week that Cheran’s Autograph (2004) hit the screens. “Autograph will steal several days of sleep for viewers of any age,” reads a line from a review in the Kalki magazine at the time of the film’s release. The National Film Award-winning movie narrates the romantic escapades of Senthil Kumar (Cheran), a young man who reminisces memories of three women who influenced his life during boyhood and adolescence.
Cut to ten years later came Alphonse Puthren’s Premam (2015), a film that explored similar themes (first love, college romance and bouts of heartbreak) through the coming of age of Nivin Pauly’s George David. Several people suggested he file a case against Puthren, keeping in mind the similarities, Cheran recollects in an interview with us.
“Many directors and people from the media told me that Premam seemed like Autograph…that it was my story that Alphonse Puthren had into a film. Since it also had done great business, they wanted me to claim my rights.” Besides the basic plot, the films share a few other similarities as well. Just like how Senthil moves to Kerala for his college education and falls in love with a Malayali woman Lathika (Gopika), George falls for Malar (Sai Pallavi), a Tamil woman who moves to Kerala as a guest lecturer in his college. Cheran says he didn’t feel bad when people told him about Premam. “I didn’t feel hurt because inspiration is something that can emerge out of anywhere. One doesn’t get inspired just by watching world cinema. It’s possible for Indian filmmakers to get inspired by our own films. So when someone makes such a film, shouldn’t that make us happy? Why shouldn’t we see it that way?” he asks, adding that it makes him happy that Autograph was one of the reasons why Premam became such a big hit.
Cheran also shares that he spoke to Puthren after watching the film and asserted that both films had different flavours. “I told him the root of the stories might have been the same, but the way the characters were handled and travelled (in the film), had different flavours. So we can’t say that Premam was entirely derived from Autograph.”
Watch the full interview here: