Vedivazhipadu, directed by Shambu Purushothaman, which releases this month, is a social commentary that unfolds during the course of an Attukal Pongala.
Debutant director Shambu Purushothaman is bursting with anticipation as the release date nears. He is waiting to see if Malayali audiences will accept his reel experiments in Vedivazhipadu. The film, which narrates certain events that happen during a Pongala festival at the Attukal Bhagavathy temple, where hundreds of thousands of women gather on the roads of Thiruvananthapuram to cook their offering to the Goddess, reaches theatres this month. Indrajith, Murali Gopy, Sreejith Ravi, Saiju Kurup, Mythili, Anusree and Anumol star in the lead in the film. “It was a very good experience for me, considering that it’s been a while since I worked with fiction. I’m eager for audience reaction because it’s the best feedback,” says Shambu, who has directed the documentary Snake Gods and the 13th Chapter, for the Public Services Broadcasting Trust, besides a few short films and corporate films. “Be it praise or abuse from the audience, I’m all ears!” he adds, with a laugh.
There have been experiments on film it seems, from this graduate of the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute of India (SRFTII), Kolkata, who has also written the script for the film. For one, Vedivazhipadu, he says, sort of blurs the line between fiction and documentary.
“I’ve attempted to fuse the two. Certain parts of the film, especially those that focus on the Pongala as such, is pure documentary in style and convention, completely shot on location, real spaces and live images and even in sync sound. Then again, the narrative of the film is completely fictional. It can best be described as a chamber drama. Why? Because the film has been shot making minimum use of minimal spaces – much like what the late Bengali filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh had done in his Raincoat. It is a fitting genre for Vedivazhipadu, because the entire narrative happens over a day, or 20 hours, to be exact.”
Then there is the genre that Vedivazhipadu falls into. Going by the trailer that strings together a number of funny incidents punctuated with comic dialogues, and the poster of the film, which is sort of like a storyboard that takes a dig at moral policing, we are thinking it is a full on comedy… “It is a black comedy, rather. There is lots of humour, yes. There a bit of a satire too,” clarifies Shambu. “Vedivazhipadu is a straightforward story about relationships but it is also about gender issues. It explores the concepts of right and wrong. The film opens with a dialogue and is a comment on society. We have not used any of the gimmicks that have of late been popular in Malayalam cinema. It has a very linear narrative,” adds the director.
Although Shambhu is mum on the storyline, refusing to confirm – or deny – whether it’s a tale of when the cat’s away the mice will play, as is obvious from certain scenes in the trailer, the film unfolds through the story of a few men who find themselves with some time on their hands while their wives are at the Pongala.
While Murali, looking slim and trim, plays Rahul, who tests video games for a living, Indrajith is Joseph, a stockbroker, whose wife is French and doesn’t live in town. Saiju Kurup acts as Sanjay, a cashier in a bank and Sreejith Ravi, his friend, is a speculator in the stock market. Anusree dons the role of a television anchor and is Saiju’s wife in the film. Funnyman Ashvin Mathew plays her boss. Mythili stars as Sreejith’s wife, a teacher, Anumol is the other woman. Small screen actor Anjana Haridas also plays an important role.
The film is being produced by director Arun Kumar Aravind under the banner of Karmayug Movies. Award-winning cinematographer Shehnad Jalal, Shambu’s classmate from SRFTII, has cranked the camera, while Bijibal has scored the background music.