Joshy Mangalath. Image Credit:

Joshy Mangalath is still in a daze.

Last week when the winners of the 62nd National film awards were announced in India, Mangalath, a HR manager in Dubai, saw his name in the Best Screenplay Writer category.

He will receive the Rajat Kamal and a cash award of Rs50,000 (Dh3,000) for his screenplay for Malayalam film Ottal (a wicker basket for catching fish), directed by Jayaraj.

Ottal also won a National award for Best Film on Environment Preservation this year.

“I feel extremely happy,” said Mangalath, who has been living in the UAE for the past two decades.

“It gives me power-packed courage to write more and more on social subjects.”

Ottal is an adaptation of Russian writer Anton Chekov’s short story Vanka, a tale of an orphan boy who works under a cobbler and the hardships he endures.

While Chekov’s story was set in Russia, Mangalath’s screenplay is set in picturesque Kuttanadu, Kerala. Ottal draws attention to child labour.

“Kuttanadu is the region with the lowest altitude in India and one of the few places in the world where farming is carried out below sea level,” says Mangalath.

Child actor Ashanth plays Kuttappayi, the grandson, and Kumarakam Vasudevan plays the grandfather, a duck farmer. The story has been modified to suit the Malayali audience.

Mangalath met director Jayaraj with his first screenplay. “He read it and gave me a good feedback. We were planning to proceed with that project, but the project did not take off.” So Jayaraj asked him to work on the screenplay for Ottal. (Mangalath’s next project involves his first screenplay.)

“Jayaraj was inspired to make the film from a picture in a leading daily and showed it to me.”

Calling Jayaraj his mentor, Mangalath says it was an amazing experience working with the noted director.

“Our thoughts are similar in many aspects. It was a big challenge to write a screenplay based on a world famous classic story. And, Mr Jayaraj gave me freedom in my writing. I’m extremely thankful to him.”