Malayalam documentaries and short films

Oru Neenda Yathra - 1996
(A Long Journey)

Oru Neenda Yathra was the first Indian short film to be screened in the competition section at Cannes.

An insignificant incident that can happen on a long bus journey over the rough roads of India, where religions are fatalistic and socially conservative, often forming the basis of communal conflicts, which claims many lives every year.

Direction & Screenplay: Murali Nair
Cast: K G Ramu, M M Roy, Parvati, M R Gopakumar
Cinematography: M J Radhakrishnan
Editing: K R Bose

Kalamandalam Gopi - 1999

In the film Gopi is presented in the first person narrative. The film watches as the artiste transforms himself into diverse and glittering personalities and, in the process, we obtain rare glimpses of his life and art.

As has been the experience of many a master, Gopi had a difficult childhood marked by poverty and travails. Gopi is adept at playing all types of roles, whether the characters are pacha, kathi of kari. But Kathakali's connoisseurs prefer most of all to see him portraying pacha (i.e. noble and heroic characters and, indeed, he has excelled in such roles.

The film won the State award for best documentary in 1999.

Direction: Adoor Gopalakrishnan

A Voyage - 1999

A film with no dialogues or commentary, only music and sound effects, the documentary A Voyage is a tribute to the renowned Malayalam writer / filmmaker M T Vasudevan Nair. Winner of the highly prestigious literary award of the country 'Njanpeet', MT's towering presence in Malayalam literature is established through Award winning Short Stories, Novels and successful Screenplays.

The film portrays the writer's boyhood days. The lonely twilight hours, distant temple bells, conchs, Vedic chanting and the awe inspiring village oracle became his sources of inspiration.

The village oracle became the protagonist of his famous short story, 'The Sword and Anklet' (1953) and the classic film Nirmalyam (1973). Even after 26 years, the character created by the author from his childhood inspiration continues to haunt him.

Apart from paying tribute to a famous writer, the film highlights the universal themes; agony and ecstasy of creation, loneliness of a creative mind and making of a maverick. It is also a voyage into the past which traces the sources of inspiration, a process which illumines a rich cultural background; an arena replete with rituals, pagan deities and oracles.

Direction & Cinematography: Biju Viswanath
Screenplay: John Paul
Editing: A Sreekar Prasad
Music: Johnson

Kanavu Malayilekku - 2001
(To the dream mountain)

It is about reclaiming dreams. Kanavu is a unique experiment in cultural formation and learning that is unfolding in the Wayanad District of Kerala under the initiative of the well known Malayalam Novelist and theatre personality K J Baby. Kanavu attempts to reassert the tribal identity and impart to tribal children a sense of self worth and dignity through a unique educational process.

The narrative of the film is built around the creative writings of K J Baby.

The film won the State award for best documentary in 2001.

Direction: M G Sasi

Diary of a House Wife - 2001

This film focuses on the concept of waiting and philosophical crisis of war. Through a young wife, it deals with philosophy of war, and the hopes and expectations related with it.

The film evolves around three female characters; a young lady, and old woman, and a girl.

The film won the National Film Award for Best First Non-feature Film of a Director in 2002.

Direction: Vinod Sukumaran
Screenplay: V R Mohan
Cinematography: Santosh Thundiyil
Editing: Vijayan
Music: Chandran Veyattummal

Jeevanakalayude Pulluvageetham - 2002
(Pulluvan Song- The Rhymes of Life)

This documentary is about the 'Pulluva Song', related to the ritual worship of the earth goddess and serpents, which helps in preserving harmony in nature. Chettikulangara Pulluvan Gopinathan, one of the leading exponents of this vanishing art form today outlines the genesis of the song, the legends which surround it, the craft of making of the musical instruments and the hidden scientific basis of this native art form.

The film won the State award for best documentary in 2002.

Direction & Screenplay: M Venukumar
Cinematography: M J Radhakrishnan
Music: Pulluvan Gopinathan

The Journey of Naked God - 2002

The film portrays the struggle of child Gods for existence in the villages, still steeped in superstitions, in Kerala and the border areas of Karnataka. During lean months the child goes out with outstretched hands dancing to devotional tunes. Aadi, Vedan, Galingchan, Godamoori - umpteen child Gods roam the dusty roads in search of morsel of food for their starving family. And childhood flies out of their lives.

Direction: Sasikumar

An Encounter With a Life Living - 2003

Life is ten percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it, is Sarasu's attitude. The movie is a search for the source of wisdom and light which sparkles out of Sarasu, who was stricken by polio at the age of five- he different perception of mobility, God, nature, dreams, womanhood and art, even while being locked up inside an unmanageable and disobedient body and these reflections of life inspires another woman to rethink about her life.

Director: Suja Vinu Abraham

The 18th Elephant: Three Monologues - 2003

Shot over five years, The 18th Elephant: Three Monologues is P Balan's third film.

This film is a powerful critique of modern man's mercenary attitude towards nature and his anthropocentric conception of development. The sad plight of the elephant in both its wild and domesticated states exposes clearly how such behavior brings death and wreaks havoc on the lives and habitats of other species.

The film won the Ram Bahadur Trophy for Best Film at Film South Asia '03.

Direction: P Balan

Nishadam - 2003
(Of the Hunter)

'Nishadam' depicts the poetic journey of Kadamminitta Ramakrishnan, the celebrated Malayalam poet. Marked with an autobiographical touch, it attempts a visual interpretation of his poems. The film opens with the shots of 'Padayani Kolams' enroute to the 'Bhagavathy Temple' and ends with 'Kolams' disappearing into darkness. The poet himself relates the defining phases of his turbulent poetic career, and recites his poetry.

Nishadam won the State award for best documentary film in 2003.

Director: Madhu Eravankara

Kaippuneeru - 2003
(The Bitter Drink)

The People of Plachimada, a sleepy hamlet in Kerala southern India, were excited when they came to know that the Global Giant Coca Cola is setting up a bottling plant in their village. The year was 2000. But soon the People realized that the presence of the Multi National Company like Coca Cola has its own problems. The bottling plant guzzles 100's of 1000's of litres of ground water everyday. The neighboring wells have gone dry. The quality of the ground water has also changed. It has become unfit for use. Their agriculture has been affected by the changes in the water table and by the solid and toxic effluents from the plant. The year was 2002. The People of Plachimada, a majority of them tribals, launched a struggle against the most powerful corporate company in the world, the Coca Cola. Their demand is to close down the plant. The Bitter Drink documents the formative days of this David and Goliath battle. The film is an updated version of the struggle which is two years old now.

Direction & Screenplay: P Baburaj & C Saratchandran
Cinematography: Jain Joseph, Kannan & C Saratchandran
Editing: P Baburaj & C Saratchandran

Ullurukkam - 2003

Set against the background of superstition and sorcery, many socio-religious factors of the Moslem life in the Malabar village (Kerala, South India) where little Kuttimon lives, operate as the members of Kuttimon's family work out their destinies.

With his acute and sensitive perception of people, events and the natural world, Kuttimon understands the significance of the happenings around him only partially. But being a child who has been nurtured on the tales of spirits and snakes and their power over human beings, Kuttimon cannot escape being lured by them.

Direction & Screenplay: Shyamaprasad
Story: N P Mohammed
Cast: Abhilash, Jamin Mayin, Rajesh Hebbar, Tom George, Sainudeen
Padmanabhan Thampi, Yusaf Haji, Sudha Suresh, Santhini Kalidas
Cinematography: Shamdut
Editing: Vinod Sukumaran

Kazhchavasthukkal - 2004
(The Exhibits)

The theme unfolds through 85-year-old Kalakshiamma, alias 'Kaatha'. The widow of a celebrated Indian writer, Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai. A devoted wife of 65 years, a mother and a very well-known ammoomma (grandmother) of Kerala.

Kaatha was born as the daughter of a farmer, her destiny to live life as a commoner with celebrity status as the wife of a literary giant. After the death of her husband she lives alone, at least physically, in a home built on dreams she had shared with her beloved, their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Once a widow, she handed over her home to the authorities with good intentions of making it a promised monument celebrating her husband's life. In reality her home has metamorphosed into a museum where she pays a rent of one rupee, perhaps only to become a tenant and, at least to some, a living exhibit.

Direction & Screenplay: Raj Nair
Cinematography: T G Sreekumar
Editing: Ali Akbar

Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair - 2005

Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair at 80 stands tall as the most venerated Kathakali actor of today. Known as a standard-bearer and path-breaker, the story of his career and accomplishments have become part of the history of Kathakali itself. His strict adherence to classical tradition and the relentless pursuit for perfection makes him out as the most astute practitioner of Kathakali.

Direction: Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Cinematography: A Radhakrishnan
Editing: Ajith

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