M.A. Rahman’s ‘M.T.yude Kumaranellooirile Kulangal’ explores the poignant tale of the Nila.

Shooting the film was quite a time-consuming challenge as I wanted to capture the Nila in different seasons. - M.A. RAHMAN

Watching the trucks carrying sand from Bharathapuzha (River Nila), M.T. Vasudevan Nair says: “I cannot bear to see this. Each truck runs over the heart of my river; it is my own heart.”

It is a poignant moment from ‘M.T.yude Kumaranellooirile Kulangal,’ a documentary-feature directed by M.A Rahman, largely based on an evocative and thought-provoking article written by M.T. about the ponds that had given him so much joy in his childhood and how they had dried up along with his favourite river, Nila.

The 54-minute film was screened at the Indian Panorama of the International Film Festival of India in Goa last year.

Last week, it was screened at schools across Malappuram district. “The responses from children have been overwhelming and the plan is to show it in schools all over Kerala,” says Rahman, who had won a National award for his maiden documentary, ‘Basheer the Man,’ back in 1987.

Emotive portrayal

‘M.T.yude Kumaranelloorile Kulangal’ took three years to shoot and seems to be certainly worth the wait. Cameraman K.G. Jayan captures the Nila in its brief glory during the monsoon and also the depressing desert of sand that now passes for the river.

The greenery of the rustic environs of Kumaranellor, where M.T. spent his childhood, pleases the eye .

The feature section makes you nostalgic about country life in Kerala and also reminds one of the Nila’s glorious past.

“Posterity will wonder of the river’s glorious past. River Nila to me is greater than the oceans of the world. Her tale is a revelation of how sand-mining can kill a river,” sighs M.T.

He recounts how he bought a piece of land on the banks of the Nila and built a small cottage so that he could always see his favourite river.

“But now all I see is fallow land covered with grass,” says the man who has witnessed two floods, while living on its banks.

Rahman admits it was not easy to convince M.T. to allow him to shoot the film. “He was at first reluctant , but once he read my script, which is pretty much what he himself had written in that article, he relented. Shooting the film was quite a time-consuming challenge as I wanted to capture the Nila in different seasons. For the feature part of the film I didn’t use even a single actor, though there were many characters. All the roles have been enacted by local people. There are schoolteachers, there are shopkeepers but no actors,” says the director.

Green campaigner

This isn’t Rahman’s only film on environmental issues. His previous film, ‘Endosulfan: Paradise for Dying,’ was about the suffering that was widely feared to have been caused by the pesticide, which was banned in Kerala in 2004.

“I had sent the CD of the film to all parts of Kerala and felt gratified when people began contributing for the treatment of the victims. Around Rs.80 lakhs was collected after the film was screened in churches. Even school children donated money upon seeing the film. I plan to show ‘M.T.yude Kumaranelloorile Kulangal’ in schools because I hope our children will do something about protecting our rivers,” says Rahman, who has included in the film excerpts from Edassery’s prophetic ‘Kuttippuram Palam,’ in which he had expressed concerns about the Nila’s future, over 50 years ago.

The director admits his film needs some pruning. “Yes, it’s a bit lengthy and I am going to create an edited version soon. If I had a bigger budget, I could have made a better film, but it’s never easy to find producers for a documentary in our country. I was lucky to find Shankar Mahadevan and Anoop Sreenivas, who were willing to invest more than Rs. 3 lakhs on this project,” he adds.

“I have written and spoken a lot about the dying Nila, but to no avail,” says M.T. in the film. Rahman hopes the film would motivate youngsters to understand the importance of protecting our rivers.