IFFK 2017: Death and desire are bedfellows in Aedan, says Sanju Surendran

A still from Aedan   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“Dreams do come true...” director Sanju Surendran put up a heartfelt post on his Facebook page shortly after his debut feature film Aeden- Garden of Desire, was selected in competition for the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), one of only two Malayalam films to make it to the list.

I remember quite well going to my first IFFK — during (my) college days, with my friend Rafees Rahmathullas. On the train to Trivandrum we were discussing a film on our college, Sree Keralavarma, which we could never make. Our minds were full of films and dreams. IFFK stunned us with a plethora of films and we were reeling with a hangover of stories, images and music. After many, many years it’s a great pleasure to see your own film Aedan at the 22nd International Film Festival of Kerala,” wrote Sanju, capturing it’s essence while summing up what the festival means to generations of film buffs and wannabe filmmakers like himself.

Sanju Surendran

Sanju Surendran   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

This, however, is not Sanju’s first tryst with IFFK as a filmmaker. Theeram, his diploma film from the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, based on a story by Priya A.S., was screened at the fête and he also directed the festival’s signature film in 2014. Then, Kapila, his long documentary delving into the intricacies of Koodiyattam through the life and performance of exponent Kapila Venu, was screened in competition at sister festival, the International Short Film and Documentary Festival of Kerala in 2015. Kapila also won the award for Best Film on Art and Culture at the 62nd National Awards. And now, Aedan is set to have it’s world première at IFFK.

“It’s extra special because IFFK is essentially a people’s film festival, one that we can consider our own. It broadened my mind to a world of reel possibilities. Prior to that first IFFK, my exposure to world cinema was minimal, save for occasional screenings at local film clubs in Thrissur, my home town,” adds Sanju, over the phone.

A still from Aedan

A still from Aedan   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Aedan, he says, is an ode to Kottayam, especially the village of Neendur, it’s people, places, language, customs and culture. It is based on three short stories by S. Hareesh, one of Kerala’s top contemporary writers.

“I chanced upon Hareesh’s short story ‘Niryatharayi,’ while I was teaching at the K.R. Narayanan Institute of Visual Science and Arts in Kottayam; my friend Rekha Raj introduced me to his works. I was blown away by his eloquent and nuanced descriptions of everyday life and real life situations of Neendur, which reminded me so much of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Macondo in 100 Years of Solitude, for it is a place filled with writers, thinkers, playwrights, revolutionaries and junkies. The stories themselves reminded me of the Arabian Nights, which start off realistically before meandering into the realm of fantasy. Later, I met Hareesh and visited Neendur and just knew that I had to make the film immediately, even though I had another National Film Development Corporation-funded project in the pipeline,” explains Sanju.

He himself wrote the script for Aedan, with Hareesh chipping in with some of the dialogues.

A still from Aedan

A still from Aedan   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The film unfolds through the story of Hari, an aspiring young writer who lives a rather mundane life and his visits with Peter Sir, a retired school teacher and widower. The two lonely men often play a curious game of charades, where they cut out obituary notices from a local newspaper and randomly pick the cuttings out from a bowl. The person who picks the older victim of death becomes the winner, and pockets a small sum.

From among the pictures, Peter Sir recognises two men whose deaths tell entirely different tales — one of a murder and the other of love.

“Niryathari’ by itself couldn’t be made into a fully-fledged script so I wove into it real life tales of a nurse who falls in love while transporting the corpse of her father from Bengaluru to her village in Kottayam (‘Manthrikavaal’) and that of a former rowdy who finds his faith (‘Chappathile Kolapathakam’),” explains the director.

Aedan has stories within stories, much like in epics. “In Aedan, death and desire are bedfellows. It is a microscopic examination of the minds of men, particularly the unpredictability of human nature, on questions like what makes a sinner and what makes a saint. Essentially it reveals a cross-section that in itself is a whirlwind of emotions — lust, passion, jealousy and rage,” adds the director.

The film was shot in and around Kottayam — in the Upper Kuttanad region that Neendur is a part of, in the plains and in the high ranges as well. Most of the actors are relative newcomers such as Abhilash Nair (who plays Hari), George Kurian (Peter Sir), Prasanth M. (Bineesh) and anchor Nandini Sree who plays Neethu, the nurse. Sunny who immortalised Thorappan Bastin in Spadikam, plays the rowdy, Madan Thampy.

Manesh Madhavan, an FTII graduate and an alumnus of the Berlinale Talent Campus of the Berlin International Film Festival, has cranked the camera. Murali Mattummal has produced the film.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 9:28:09 PM |

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