A short film by Arjun Menon, ‘Preserve the World for Us' spans almost all of five minutes, but what impact those 300 seconds have!
This film screened at the just-concluded short film festival SCRIPT 2011 (Social and Corporate Responsibility Promotion International Theatre) in the category for films made by students has won the Halo of Honour award.
With around 200 hits on Youtube, it has generated a discussion on the Perandoor Canal which separates Girinagar and Panampilly Nagar. One more thing, the young man behind the film is younger than young, he is barely nine (he turns 10 this year).
The plot is simple – a young boy (Arjun as the young boy he is) goes to his grandmother's (Arjun's grandmother, Dr. Vijayalakshmi) house on vacation. The house is situated next to, you guessed it, the Perandoor Canal. The foul smell emanating from the canal leads the boy to ask his grandmother why she lives next to a ‘drain'.
That is when she tells him that the ‘drain' was once a beautiful canal with lotus and fish, boats plying on it and narrates the story of how waste from surrounding houses was dumped into the canal turning it into a drain. Towards the end as the boy leaves after the vacation, his grandmother asks him what gift he wants and he gives her a drawing of a beautiful Perandoor Canal with a message to preserve the world. More than the technical finesse of the film (such as expectation would also be unfair to the child's efforts), what stands out about the film is how it has been visualised, conceptualised and then worked out.
Arjun is keyed up and enthusiastic about his film. The genesis for the short film was a conversation he overhead, about the Perandoor Canal, between his mother and a friend, he says. “I was shocked to hear that the Perandoor Canal was once a beautiful canal and not a dirty sewage drain,” he says. His mother Padmaja Menon, an interior decorator, says once he found out that the canal was not a drain he kept badgering her wanting to know more about it. Arjun's father is P.S. Menon, a Chartered Accountant.
So consumed was he by the discovery that he decided that something must be done, and he should be the one doing it. As any nine-year-old would be, he is impatient with the ‘how did you? What made you make the film?' questions. As far as the short film goes - he had something to say, and he wrote a script and mailed it to her mother's friends from her email address. Padmaja says she found out only when a friend Hari Govind saw the script and called her, and decided to sponsor the film. Thus was born ‘Preserve the World for Us'. With Arjun's grandmother and his brother Shreehari (for more support) on board, the camera was rolling.
Hope for change
How was it directing the ‘film' and your grandmother? “It was fun.” He and his band of friends, all members of the ‘United Friends Club' hope to show the film to the Mayor and the Collector in the hope that something might come out of it. The adults are as sceptical as the youngsters are optimistic about some constructive action being taken.
They are, nevertheless, backing the kids in their effort. The feedback after the film was uploaded on Youtube has been heartening says Padmaja. People who have lived in Panampilly Nagar during the ‘beautiful canal' phase of the Perandoor Canal have emailed asking for constructive action, she says.
The film was also screened in Austria, France, Hungary and Germany at film festivals of societies (such as Rotary etc). The Standard IV student of Sacred Heart CMI Public School Thevara hopes to make many more movies. On his immediate movie-making plans Arjun says with all the candour of a child, “I will make one or two more movies.”