It’s been one year since Raveendran, or ‘Chinta Ravi’, as he was known to his friends and admirers, left us. Ravi was a rare human being who played several roles in his public life – media critic, filmmaker, television producer, travel writer, editor… But, as he admits in one of his interviews during the last years of his life, “writing was and is my passion, nothing else gives me such intoxication…”
This all consuming intoxication is evident in this anthology – Swapna Jagarangalil – which is a miscellany of Ravi’s uncollected writings about travel experiences, various aspects of media and polity, introductions for various books, personalities with whom he had enduring relationships and interviews with him. His deep sensitivity for human, social and natural ecologies turn his subjects into a virtual ‘sensorium’ to the reader.
In his travel writings, more than a purveyor of geography and exotica, he is a chronicler of peoples’ lives with a deep sense of history and a keen eye for ethnographic details that sustains itself and draws from his deep love for people equalled only by his lust for life.
For instance, in Ravi’s account about the incarceration of Binayak Sen, both space and time seep in; his memory goes back in time to his meeting with Dr. Sen’s precursor Sankarguha Niyogi decades earlier, and to a graphic description of the changing spaces of interior rural landscapes of the mineral-rich, Adivasi lands they fight for.
A good listener and seasoned traveller, he captures the spirit of travel from a ‘masterji’ he meets in interior Andhra Pradesh, who advices him: “It is always better to travel alone in rural villages; first of all, if you are alone, they feel confident and secure. They know that the traveller has to depend on them for food and shelter, and it is also easy to provide it for one person than a group. And once the traveller shares food and roof, they immediately gauge his or her temperaments and accept him/her as one of their own.”
Ravi’s reminiscences on personalities include some heart-wrenching accounts of admiration, awe, camaraderie and friendship. Most of them have been written after the subject’s departure and hence have a very poignant tinge to them; they include E. M. S. Nambudiripad, O. V. Vijayan, Aravindan, Pavithran, K. Jayachandran and Ragin Mario John, a student singer whom he happened to meet in one of his shooting assignments in Wayanad. Ravi’s other writings include those on the ideology of Malayalam newspapers, international film festival culture of Kerala, television serial ‘Ramayana’, films such as K.G. George’s Swapnadanam and Pradeepkumar’s Swapnangal Padiyirangumbol, and painters such as C.N. Karunakaran, and a book on John Abraham. His long interview with P.S. Manojkumar follows Ravi through his various lives, while the one with Shanmughadas takes a self-introspective look at his films. This section is followed by introductions and studies he wrote on various writers, including insightful studies on the stories of C.V. Sreeraman and N.S. Madhavan. Although the above list may read like a random collection of writings, they are all firmly held together by Ravi’s sparkling language, incisive observations, sense of history and deep humanity. Whether he is writing about a place, a person, an event, a memory, a film or poem or story, he brings into it a ‘Raviesque’ kind of intonation and energy, with his ability to spin coinages and turns of phrase, all prompting the reader to look at life in fresh contexts and from critical viewpoints.