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Manoj KU (left) and Manju Pathros (right) play main supporting roles in 'Uru'. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A former Indian expat in the UAE, who recently retired as a veteran journalist in the region, is coming up with a movie based on real-life experiences of Gulf returnees in his native place — the south Indian state of Kerala — and the centuries-old relationship between Kerala and the Arab region.

EM Ashraf, who had worked with a Malayalam TV channel’s Dubai bureau for 17 years, named the Malayalam film Uru — dhow that linked Gulf countries and Kerala for centuries.

EM Ashraf

Uru’ or wooden dhow has been an integral part of the history of trade between Arabs and Indians for ages.

Centuries-old link

Centuries ago, Arabs had come to the Beypore area of Kozhikode in Kerala. They built small merchant ships, using expensive timber — such as Malabar teak — from the Nilambur forests and took them to the Arab countries. They imported spices and textiles to their countries in Uru made by the carpenters of Beypore. These traditional boat-makers of Beypore also built luxury dhows for pleasure trips.

“When I was in Dubai, I used to think about those Uru-makers, whenever I saw the dhow cruises on Dubai Creek,” Ashraf told Gulf News over the phone from Kerala.

However, Uru-making in Beypore, which was established since India began its maritime trade with Mesopotamia, had almost become a thing of the past.

During his vacations, Ashraf said, he had gone to meet some of the Uru craftsmen and came to know their stories. It was in this context that Ashraf, who has won three awards for best short films from the Kerala state government, decided to write the script for a feature film, weaving in it the life story of Uru-making craftsmen and some expatriates.

“The film is about expatriates who worked in the Gulf countries for years and returned home — only to be struck by the harsh realities of bank foreclosures of their homes or properties. It depicts the realities of their lives and also the close ties between Arabs and Indians,” said Ashraf who has written four books on films and authored about 50 travelogues and biographies, including those of MF Husain and Vaikom Muhammad Basheer.

Film cast and music composition

The former Middle East news and programme director of Kairali TV has picked veteran Malayalam actor Mamukoya to play the lead role of Sreedharan, an Uru-making carpenter in Beypore. His relationship with Rashid (played by Thinkalazcha Nischayam–fame Manoj KU), who arrives in Beypore as a representative of an Arab man to oversee the manufacturing of an Uru, is part of the central plot. Saudi actor Hassan Al Salman appears as the Arab owner of the Uru.

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Mamukoya plays the role of a head carpenter who crafts dhows. Image Credit: Supplied

Television actress Manju Pathrose and Ashraf’s former colleague in Dubai, Albert Alex, who has acted in many Malayalam movies, are also playing important characters in the film.

Noted music composer and playback singer Jassie Gift has composed the music for lyrics penned by National Award winner Prabha Varma. Camera and editing are by Sreekumar and Hari G Nair, respectively. Produced under the banner of Zams Production and shot in Kerala and Saudi Arabia, the movie is scheduled for a March release.