Sudevan's unconventional short films showcase his individuality and his strong connections to his rural milieu.
Sudevan, whose film ‘Thattumpurathappan' (Lord of the Attic) was in the competition section for short films in the recently concluded International Short and Documentary Film Festival of Kerala, is perhaps one of the most unconventional filmmakers to emerge on the video scene in Kerala. Sudevan hails from a remote village in Palakkad district, and never had any exposure to classics, film societies, or film festivals. The first film festival he attended was the one that showed his first video!
He has been making short video films for the last six years, all of which are notable for their deceptively simple visual treatment and sharp thematic focus. Sudevan is one of those rare organic filmmakers who is firmly rooted in his milieu, and weaves his narratives from them. Shorn of all technical finery, his films are visceral and have a captivating intimacy to them. More importantly, he believes in “real audience”– he would like to know and converse with them at a personal level. More than 1,000 DVD copies of his ‘Thattumporathappan' have been sold during the course of one year. It is also the natural outcome of Sudevan's commitment to marketing his film, most of which has happened through word of mouth publicity.
He has made four films, all of which have been made in association with Achuthanandan, his actor and alter ego, neighbour and producer, all rolled into one. He works with a limited crew, and uses only the most essential low-end equipment. But he makes elaborate preparations before each film: he discusses the film threadbare with Achuthanandan, charts out camera angles and movements, and identifies locations. Finally, they garner local support and infrastructure for production, and do detailed and repeated rehearsals before the actual shooting.
“I would place my camera and plan its movements in such a way that I perfectly know how it will look at the editing table,” says Sudevan. Their post-production work does not end with editing and mixing, but with a detailed plan as to where to show the films and how to reach their target audience.
His first video ‘Varoo' (2004) is a Kafkaesque take on the theme of ‘finding one's own way.' Shot with an ordinary video camera by an amateur, it charmingly captures winding country paths and verdant terrain in all its seeming simplicity and labyrinthine dimensions. His next film ‘Planning' (2006), looks at the flip side of a Malayali middle class family from the point of view of two thieves, who make detailed plans to rob a house when its occupants are away. Eventually, when they sneak into the house, they only find a letter that announces the decision of the house owner to put an end to his life, and lists out his mounting woes and debts.
‘Randu' deals with the theme of selfishness. It is about two labourers who are digging a well, one of whom chances upon a treasure. It turns out to be the fatal moment where they, who were one in their labour and life, become ‘two' – each monstrously following his own greedy dream.
‘Thattumporathappan,' his latest film, takes a bleak but hilarious look at the thriving spirituality ‘business.' Here is a young man who takes refuge in the attic of a house, while escaping the police. He gradually works his way out by donning the role of a god-man, and by exploiting the gullibility of the devotee living in the house. In the end, we find that the same house turns out to be the hottest spiritual destination in the locality. What makes the film interesting is the way in which Sudevan works through the tenuous and almost uncanny relationship between god and devotee, both dependent on each other, and yearning for ‘liberation.'
Duo at the centre
Interestingly, in all his films till date, Sudevan has worked with a duo at the centre – seeker of the path and the one who shows it (‘Varoo'), the two thieves (‘Planning'), the manual labourers (‘Two'), and the ‘god' and devotee (‘Thattumporathappan'). Having gained enough experience and confidence, he is planning to venture out to work on a larger canvas and format.
He has assiduously built an audience network by showing his film at all possible venues. But he would like to avoid the mistake of the hero of his first film and would like to find a way of his own, without falling for the lure of empty offers and trodden paths.
Keywords: Documentary Films