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Where meat is taboo, skin stays sanctified

R. Madhavan Nair
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A different shot:Film director Sathyan’s ‘ Holy Cow’ explores the paradox of societies using hide to create percussion instruments which are perceived sacred and used in temples.
A different shot:Film director Sathyan’s ‘ Holy Cow’ explores the paradox of societies using hide to create percussion instruments which are perceived sacred and used in temples.

The latest film of Odessa Movies, Holy Cow , focuses on the contradictions in social perceptions about cow slaughter and vegetarianism. The documentary, directed by Sathyan, tries to understand why society has banned meat and fish from temples and their precincts, though musical instruments made from hide are used in temple ceremonies.

Holy Cow is a journey through the innards of our society, which has been celebrating with fanfare beliefs in animal sacrifice and animal worship,” Sathyan says.

The first phase of the shooting of the film, being made on a shoestring budget, has been completed in Madurai and parts of Kerala.

“We have captured scenes showing the making of musical instruments such as chenda and idakka using hide. We have shot scenes to show that fish and meat are taboo in temples and their neighbourhoods … We want to tell campaigners against cow slaughter how they have missed this irony,” Sathyan says.

The director hopes that exposing the paradox will raise questions about the validity of the “elitist abhorrence of non-vegetarianism,” which is now much debated.

Films from Odessa Movies have always been a piercing searchlight on social issues and individuals who chose to walk alone. Ithrayum Yathabhagam was about the maverick poet Ayyappan, Vettayadappetta Manassu about the constable Ramachandran Nair who had to gun down the Naxalite leader Varghese in a fake encounter, and Agnirekha was about the Naxalite Angadippuram Balakrishnan, who killed himself. Mortuary of love examined love and sexual violence in Kerala society.

As all those films, Sathyan has scripted Holy Cow and is directing it. Pratap John is behind the camera. Holy Cow is also being made with funds raised from common people.

Odessa’s leaders, all disciples of the maverick film-maker John Abraham, believe that making films with people’s patronage is the best way to enjoy freedom from capitalists to articulate truths that otherwise will remain unspoken.

R. Madhavan Nair

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