The story of a people’s psyche

Filmmaker Don Palathara lets the camera do half the work. He leaves the rest to the viewer, to mull over and savour each frame. In his latest film, 1956 Central Travancore, the mountains, the trees and the forest take on the airs of a surrealistic painting.

A period drama that depicts the lives of the early migrants to Idukki, Don tells the story of two brothers Onan and Kora set in the time just before land reformations in Kerala. Through their story, he gives the viewer a peek into the past of the High Ranges and its people.

His preoccupation with black and white stays. His earlier films Shavam and Vith were in black and white too. “Black and white affords the viewers’ eyes a certain freedom. Colour has the tendency to draw attention to a certain part of the screen. It is manipulative in that sense and I did not want that,” he says.

The film was named Kattupothu initially, as the basic storyline involves a gaur hunt in the deep forest and the complications that emerge thereafter. However, it was changed to 1956…. Though he sticks to the contemplative style he excels in, Don has been generous with dialogues this time. The narrative is scattered, but the thread remains, dipping in and out of people’s stories, myths and legends. Sharing stories help the characters remember their pasts and make bonds. Here, the various elements of Nature also assume their own roles. In order to depict the time and space where the story takes place accurately, the film employs not only cinematic techniques that resonate with the psyche of the people of that period, but also uses music, art, beliefs, stories and lifestyle.

Shot in Idukki and parts of Tamil Nadu, the film took Don and his team less than a year to complete. The story and editing have been done by Don himself. His 2015 film Shavam, which dealt with the goings on in a house where a death has taken place, received much critical acclaim. Grim, realistic and at times hilarious, the darkness of the theme was often balanced by Don’s treatment of it. Later, in 2017, he made Vith, a story of the relationship between a father and son, both divided on the way they perceive life. Don’s poetic visuals in the film complemented the theme. So would he ever make a “commercial” film? “There would be commercial releases. Every film is commercial in my opinion, because we try to sell the film. But I cannot compromise honesty for the sake of money.”

Don has done his Masters in IT, but veered to filmmaking as he found his “purpose” in it. “Filmmaking is exciting because there is so much more to learn,” he says. He did his film studies at the International Film School, Sydney.

Though he watches all kinds of films, he believes in the kind that lies closest to life. All three of Don’s films were filmed in Idukki, where he hails from.

It is produced by Abhilash Kumar under the banner of Artbeat Studios, who has written the script for Ashiq Abu’s 22 Female Kottayam and Da Thadiya. Alex Joseph, who has done numerous short films, is the director of photography. The sound recording has been done by State award winners Sandeep Madhavam and Jiji Jospeh. The cast includes Jain Andrews, Assif Yogi, Krishnan Balakrishnan, Kani Kusruti and Shaun Romy. The film will be sent to festival circuits and will be released later.

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 3:12:47 AM |

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