'Pettikkada Madhavan': A Malayalam short film about unfulfilled dreams

The poster of the film  

The poster of Reese Thomas’ short-film Pettikkada Madhavan has two familiar faces, character actors KTS Padannayil (popularly known as Padanna) and Vavachan, both of who acted in Malayalam films of the 1990s to 2000s. “I wanted both these characters in a single frame for my film, and on the poster too. Back in the day, they might not have been featured in too many posters,” says Reese. The nine-minute film uploaded on YouTube is his ode to those who dream of making it in films, but don’t. “It also applies to people who don’t ‘make it’ in life,” he adds.

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“Someone asked me ‘Why tell a story of losers?’ Why not? There are so many people who are left with a sense of what they could have done,” he says. The film pans in on Madhavan (Padanna), owner of a pettikkada (a petty shop) who is also a character artiste in films. It opens with Madhavan talking about acting with Mammootty and Mohanlal, and how they are as people. An eager crowd listens, adoringly hanging on to each word.

Juxtaposed is the story of a school boy who, fed a diet of Madhavan’s stories from film sets, dreams of becoming an actor. When their paths cross later in life, the audience realises that neither of them has made it in films. The closest the boy, now a man, gets is pasting film posters on walls. The actor, Deepak Augustine, who essayed the role is Reese’s friend. “He started chasing the film dream when he was 17, he is now in his 30s. He still hasn’t got a decent break,” he says.

Reese Thomas with KTS Padannayil and Vavachan

Reese Thomas with KTS Padannayil and Vavachan  

Reese shot the film a year ago; he shelved it as he was not satisfied with the result. An assistant director, he has worked on films such as Kammattipadam, Luca, Carbon and the to-be-released Minnal Murali. He got busy with work and couldn’t find time to revisit the footage. However, with lockdowns, came time to look at the film again, with fresh eyes. “I felt disappointed that I wasn’t doing anything much with the time at hand. So I decided to finish what I started,” he says. He re-shot some parts and got the film ready.

Seeing Padanna on the poster, actor Shaju Sreedhar, who has acted with him, told Reese that it made him happy. “He told me ‘finally Padanna chettan is on a poster’!” He was determined to cast Padanna and Vavachan in the film. “Padanna chettan was game. He is 87 years old and his memory failing. He did not even want to hear the story, he just told me to pick him up when I was ready to film. Tracking Vavachan was slightly more difficult, I travelled to Kottayam looking for him,” he says.

Vavachan has acted in a number of films including those directed by Jayaraj such as Karunam and Sneham. “Both these actors are forgotten. I want to shine the spotlight on them, one more time. The dialogues may sound melodramatic, but this is how people talk when they look back on lost chances and unfulfilled dreams,” Reese says.

To paraphrase Madhavan chettan: There are more stories of failure in the film industry than successes.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 10:34:17 AM |

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