T.V. Chandran on his latest film, Bhumiyude Avakashikal, which will be released later this month.
Not only are several species on earth becoming endangered and extinct every day, the most significant painful casualty is humanity or the condition of ‘being human’.
Bhumiyude Avakashikal is the third part of T.V. Chandran’s trilogy on Gujarat carnage. The first one was, Kathavaseshan, it was followed by Vilapangalkkappuram. The narrative of all these films begin on the same day, February 28, 2002, that is, on the day after the Godhra incident in Gujarat. Excerpts from a conversation with the filmmaker on the movie and its theme.
The title of your new film is Bhumiyude Avakashikal or Inheritors of Earth, which immediately brings to mind Vaikom Muhammed Basheer. Is it based on his story?
No, the film is not based on the Basheer story, but it is a film that is dedicated to him. In fact, the title draws not only from Basheer but also from the Red Indian Chief who told the American President that they are the real inheritors of the earth. The film is actually dedicated to Basheer, the great musical genius M.S. Baburaj, and the vanishing habitats of Kerala. To shoot this film, I really had to search all over Kerala to find a vast and bio-diverse compound with all our common flora and fauna. Though it was very common a few decades ago, it has totally vanished with human habitation taking over our earth, driving out all other organisms and life forms.
What is the central theme of this film?
In one word, the film is about ‘endangerment’. Not only are several species on earth becoming endangered and extinct every day, the most significant casualty is humanity or the condition of ‘being human’. Humanity is the most endangered thing in our lives now; we are not only pushing all other life forms out of the earth, but, in the process, humaneness too, the ability to coexist with others, tolerance for others and all that makehuman life worth living. This film is about a man who is driven away from place to place by human intolerance, violence and hatred. Finally, he finds a place devoid of humans, in a dilapidated house in the middle of a vast compound, amongst all forms of flora and fauna. But, eventually, ‘humanity’ catches up with him there too.
What is the Gujarat connection to the film?
After reading about the violent incidents that occurred during the riots, the protagonist of Kathavaseshan, decides to commit suicide, ‘out of shame of being alive in India after Gujarat’. The girl in Vilapangalkkappuram runs away from Gujarat on the same day after her family members are murdered, to seek refuge somewhere else.
In Bhumiyude Avakashikal too, the protagonist (played by Kailash), is driven away from Ahmedabad on the same fateful day, after he makes a futile attempt to save a woman hunted by a group of communal fanatics. So, all these films are linked together by Gujarat riots. He runs away from Ahmedabad and reappears in Kerala, and he has lost all marks of identity – his name, ID cards, love. In the new place, he is given accommodation by another ‘unknown’ man called Beeran (played by Sreenivasan), who is a warm and gentle human being, whose only passion in life is music.
But, eventually, he too is murdered during a communal clash. This again drives him away from that place. Finally, he goes back to the house that was bequeathed to him by chance (even his lineages are doubtful). But, again, another humane act of his attracts violence from society. In the end, he feels that his presence there would only bring trouble to those gentle creatures inhabiting that space peacefully. And he decides to walk out, one doesn’t know where to.
This is perhaps the first Malayalam film that leaves the human and the anthropocentric narration behind, and explores the realm of the non-human. That must have been a huge challenge in terms of shooting …
True. All my films till now have dealt with the human world and the various kinds of oppressions working within it; but here, you have the protagonist sharing his thoughts, concerns, doubts and frustrations with various kinds of animals around him such as frogs, spiders, tortoises, snakes and rats.
He converses with the rats, tortoises and spiders. This took hours to get these animals to ‘act’, we had to follow them for hours to capture the right moment, and I think Ramachandrababu, our cameraman, had a tough time.
Ramachandrababu is working with you for the first time…
Yes, he is one of our finest cameramen, though he has not been given his due. For instance, he has done some of the landmark films such as Agraharathil Kazhuthai, Nirmalyam, Swapnadanam and several other films of K.G. George, Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha and so on. Our friendship goes back to the time of Agraharathil Kazhuthai. Working with him was a great experience, for very few cameramen have such patience and commitment to detail like him.
As in your previous films, there are a lot of references to other films, filmmakers, writers and so on like Basheer, Baburaj, Bhargavinilayam etc in this film too…
Yes, it is a tribute to Baburaj and lines from eight vintage songs of his like ‘Thamasamenthevaruvan’, ‘Akale akale neelakasham’ and ‘Thedunnathare shoonyathayil’ figure in my film. There are references to films such as Bhargavinilayam (the house itself reminds one of it) and so it is also a homage to Vincent mash. Music is by a debutant, Sangeeth Pillai. He has done good work and it was a new experience for him too.