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Inspired by Mukundan

Mohamed Nazeer

film A filmmaker tries to capture the essence of Mukundan's stories on celluloid.

Documenting fiction: Mukundan's rich imagery and simple language have been effectively captured on film.

Despair, disillusionment and alienation form the undercurrent of the entire corpus of writer M. Mukundan. While dealing with existential human predicaments, the writer considers ideology and religion as irrelevant in giving answers to questions. As he charts the contours of human alienation through a narrative rich in symbolic imagery, Mukundan refrains from presenting solutions.

No easy solutions

"Mukundan does not offer answers on a platter. No good art does that. It raises questions, thought-provoking questions, and allows the readers to find their own answers," observes theatre person, Habib Tanveer, in his critical commentary. This commentary runs through the body of a short film, `Mundanam Cheyyapetta Jeevitham' (`The tonsured life') based on Mukundan's story by the same name. This is one of his short stories written in a symbolic format that defies naive interpretations. The makers of the 35-minute-long film, which they call docu-fiction, say that it is the first of a series of films based on Mukundan's stories.

The short story, `Mundanam Cheyyapetta Jeevitham,' portrays the traumatic experiences that a popular artist undergoes in a day's time. Laxmanlal Pyarelal Panditji, who calls on him in the morning, takes him out, tonsures his head, puts him on a donkey, and makes him walk through the streets of Delhi. In the evening, the Panditji tells the artist that the latter was being punished for giving water to an old beggar who had come to his house. "It has been my dream to make films on Mukundan's stories," says K.K. Rajan who has directed the docu-fiction film. A graduate of the National School of Drama, Rajan has been actively involved in theatre activities for more than two decades. His play `Junction' won many awards of the Kerala Sangeeta Nataka Akademi in 2000. He says he started cultivating the idea of pursuing a different form to visualise Mukundan's stories while acting in a film called `Delhi 81,' which is considered as Mukundan's most outstanding short story. That search for an alternative media has culminated in the docu-fiction, a combination of documentary and fiction.

Narrative technique

The imagery, symbols and narrative techniques of Mukundan's stories are said to be elements that defy any attempt to transform them into a visual format. More so, because of the apparent simplicity of situations and characters that he uses to weave stories that conveys existential anguish. He does not use existentialist language while writing existentialist stories.

"This subtlety, disguised as extremely readable simplicity, makes the conventional fictional approach of linear logical progression look trivial," says Joe Mathew, who is associated with Rajan in the making of `Mundanam Cheyyapetta Jeevitham.' The docu-fiction form is best suited to present this deceptive simplicity of his stories as it provides a space for interpretation, he says. The multi-dimensional character of Mukundan's stories necessitates an alternative form, Mathew adds.

Habib Tanveer's critical commentary is the thread that holds the film, which was produced under the banner of Retina Media Vision. Tanveer speaks about artistes who were tortured and maligned by systemic forces, organised religions and dogmatic ideologies. Mukundan, who saw the film that was premiered in Delhi earlier this month, observed that the approach of the film and Habib Tanveer's commentary increased the significance and dimensions of the story manifold, says an elated Rajan.

The film's relevance lies in the fact that even today fundamentalist and right-wing forces attack writers and artists as well as cultural and educational institutions.

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