Immini Balyoraal, which received the Kerala State Television Award for the best short film for children, brings a smile to your face. Manoj Kaipathur, director of the short film aired on Mazhavil Manorama, is elated that Athul, who played the lead role, also won the state award for the best child artiste. Manoj speaks about the film, which is about “love, understanding and care”. Excerpts…

Basheer, the hero

M.K. Basheer, a class seven student, is ‘Moori Basheer’ for all. He is scorned for his ignorance, but is always called up by teachers and students when somebody falls ill, when a tap has to be fixed, when things have to be bought for the school kitchen, when somebody’s gold chain falls into the well, when a physically challenged student has to be taken to the class and so on. His talent as an artiste is overlooked by all, even as he assists a graffiti artiste.

His Malayalam teacher Kumaran is a nightmare for Basheer who even stops going to school, when the teacher asks all students in his class to do a project on Vaikom Muhammed Basheer, because the youngster can’t write Malayalam. But his classmate, Athira (Nayana), encourages him to make paintings on Basheer. He reads Basheer, recreates his characters and even starts acting like Basheer – sitting in an easy chair under a tree, listening to a song on the radio, drinking black tea and wearing spectacles made of coconut palm leaves! Just as the literary legend used to sit in his planter’s chair, under the mangosteen tree, listening to records on a gramophone and drinking sulaimani. Eventually his project is chosen the best in the state.

The project

The movie was produced by Government Upper Primary School, Thrikkuttisseri, near Balussery in Kozhikode. They wanted to make a movie as part of their school project and invited me for discussions. The film is based on one of the plays written by K. Ranjith, my friend who writes plays for children. It was meant to be a small project, but once it got going, we all got so involved that it was decided to make a short film that could be telecast. Language is a highlight of the work since we’ve stuck to the local language of the area, which is different from the Malayalam spoken in any part of Kerala.

Cast and crew

Teachers and students of the school are part of the cast. Since we couldn’t find our Basheer from the school concerned, we auditioned a few children and chose Athul, a student of Poyilkavu Higher Secondary School, Koyilandy. He slipped into the role with ease. Ranjith has written the story, screenplay and dialogues. Pramod K.Pillai, who has worked with Ajayan Vincent and Satheesh Kurup, has cranked the camera. I was to lucky to have Manoj Narayanan, winner of this year's Sangeetha Nataka Akademi best director award, playing a role – the graffiti artiste whom Basheer assists.

Winning honours

It won five awards at the State Children’s Film Festival organised by the State Institute for Educational Technology. Bobby-Sanjay, Anjali Menon and Rajesh R. Pillai were jury members at a film festival organised by NIT-Kozhikode. They appreciated our work a lot.

On his career

Filmmaking has always been a passion and I’ve been in the industry for over a decade now. I have assisted K.K. Rajeev, Boban Samuel and Shyju-Shaji. My first independent work was the short film Violin, which had a script by Bobby-Sanjay. Sanusha, who acted in it, won the state award for best child artiste that year. I have done another short film Laura. I plan to do a feature film later this year.