Filmmaker Rajeev Ravi has pulled no punches in making Kammatipaadam , his third directorial work in Malayalam that is making waves for its shockingly honest and no-holds-barred portrayal of life on the margins of society. The subaltern movie reveals the lurking angst and anger that simmers beneath the glittering veneer of metros and big cities.
Taking us away from the comfortable space of family dramas and entertainers, Rajeev’s subversive film focusses on the lives of the underprivileged and why many of them are unwittingly sucked into a vortex of violence from which there is no comeback. As the marginalised lose their moorings and means of livelihood, they are forced to battle for their survival; an unequal battle where they often become pawns in the hands of unscrupulous landsharks.
Kammatipaadam shows us how entire cultures and communities get erased as the city marches into villages and rural areas. With a captivating screenplay by P. Balachandran, Kammatipaadam is a requiem for a lost world of innocence, an ode to the dispossessed. “I wanted to show viewers the real face of the development that we are seeing around us now. Whose development are we talking about? Is development about building concrete jungles? What is development? It is a question that has vexed me. Hailing from Ernakulam, I have seen the place change before my eyes and also what has happened to its people. Krishna [Dulquer Salmaan’s character] could be me. The fields that I saw in my childhood have been replaced by huge buildings. There has been an explosive growth in cities. It is the same story all over the world,” says Rajeev, speaking over the phone from Mumbai, where he is working on the Hindi film Udta Punjab .
He adds: “The mindless development that we are seeing has created a huge divide between the haves and the have-nots like never before. It has never been this bad.”
Dulquer, Alencier, Vinayakan, Vinay Forrt, Suraj Venjaramoodu, Shine Tom Chacko and Muthumani are the stars who essay some unforgettable characters. While debutant Shaun Romy plays the female lead, Anil Nedumangad, Manikandan and P. Balachandran are also part of the cast.
Rajeev is angry that Kammatipaadam was given an ‘A’ certificate from the Censor Board and makes no effort to mask his annoyance. He says that the certification has reduced viewers for the film. “However, I have been getting calls from all over Kerala; viewers want to share their emotions after they saw the film.”
Amongst those showering accolades on the film are Anurag Kashyap and filmmakers from Kerala. Anurag posted on twitter: “ Kamadipattam ” is so so so brilliant… A slow burn gangster film almost like “Once upon a time in America (Kerala)” outstanding actors too.…is running with English subtitles, don't miss it. One of the best gangster/brotherhood films from India. Rajeev Ravi-the boss”.
Rajeev says he is happy that people like Anurag and many other viewers have been able to empathise with the film’s theme. He finds it strange that people are cribbing about violence in the movie, when they are confronted with violence every day, in the media and on television. “How can anyone close their eyes to the brutality around them? Violence need not be physical. There are many forms of violence. What is there in the film that we have not read about or seen in the news or on the net? The actual picture is worse.”
Brushing aside the remark that the three-hour film is too long, Rajeev asks: “How can I decide how long or short a creative work can be? In fact, if a film is just 90 minutes long, are people getting their money’s worth? The duration was not planned. That is how the story shaped up.” He fears that these issues are being raked up by certain exhibitors who want to have a say in the duration of movies.
Rajeev’s disenchantment with the powers that be finds its visual expression in Kamatipaadam . What enhances the story line and Madhu Neelakandan’s eloquent frames are the actors, some of them newcomers to cinema. Rajeev gives all credit to the casting team who worked hard to find the kind of actors Rajeev had visualised for his characters.
Even the music by K, John Varkey and Vinayakan, has its own identity. Written by Anwar Ali and Dileep K.G., the music and lyrics, says Rajeev, was finalised only after a lot of research.
The inhabitants of Kammatipaadam might have lost the battle for their soil but their fight for survival finds resonance in many other Kammatipaadams in Kerala and elsewhere.