Friday Review

Ode to a brave patriot

Samuthirakani in a still from Vasanthathinte Kanal Vazhikalil, a biopic on P. Krishna Pillai.   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Period films have a niche audience in Kerala. So Anil V. Nagendran was always puzzled why no filmmaker had seen it fit to make biopics on the early firebrand leaders of Kerala; political activists who had jumped into the struggle for freedom and human dignity without a thought for their future as individuals or politicians. Anil decided to make amends by making a series of After tasting success with a series of audio biographies on the stalwarts of the Left movement in Kerala, eminent leaders such as EMS, AKG and P. Krishna Pillai. With people like the late actor Murali and composers like P. Bhaskaran participating in his venture, Anil’s audio biographies were a run-away success. That gave him the confidence to turn director with a biopic on the eventful life of P. Krishna Pillai, Vasanthathinte Kanal Vazhikalil . The film is on the life and times of this indomitable organiser and activist who dedicated his life to fight against injustice.

The movie, starring Samuthirakani in the lead role of Krishna Pillai, reaches theatres today. Excerpts from an interview with Anil, the director, scriptwriter and producer of the film.

What was the motivation for making a film of this genre?

I did a lot of reading for my audio production on the late leader. During my research, I spoke to a number of senior leaders who worked with him and had interacted with this pioneer of the Communist movement in Kerala. It was a journey of discovery to learn about this relentless fighter and audacious activist who did not seem to have known the meaning of fear. While there were several films on doughty political activists from other countries, there was almost nothing on this brave Malayali who had lived all his life for the downtrodden.

What is the focus of your film?

Although I touch upon the socio-political background of the Kerala in the thirties, the film focusses on the major events in the forties in Kerala. Here was a man who had held the tricolour and kept it flying during a protest when Congress men defied the salt law in Malabar and braved the blows of the British police. Ringing in the changes that were to transform Kerala, he became the first non-Brahmin to ring the bell inside Guruvayur temple. He was also at the forefront of the Vaikom Satyagraha. This Gandhian and staunch Congressman went on to sow the seeds of the Left movement in Kerala. Later on, he became immersed in battling for the rights of the oppressed and labouring classes. When he died of snakebite at the age of 42, he was a hero of the working class in Kerala. My aim was to highlight the valour, determination and personality of this freedom fighter from Kerala. There is nothing overtly political about the film and I must admit that the film was shot with the help of people owing allegiance to different political parties. Their politics differed but not their admiration for the man who dreamt of a free and equal society.

The film was in the making for a long time

I was adamant that we would not make any comprises while making this film. Under the leadership of art director K. Krishnankutty, a set that we made in Kollam covered an area of six km. Since it was a period film, we had to ensure that there were no electric line, poles, lamp posts and so on. Effort and imagination were necessary to recreate the times in which I have told my story. Some of the events are fiction, which was necessary to aid the narrative. But the movie has not deviated from his life. We have used real footage of some of the milestones of the struggle for Independence. Since we were handling a slice of history, I wanted to spare no effort to get the facts right.

What is special about the 3,000 actors in the film is that many of them are actually labourers who we chose and trained to act in the film. KPAC Lalitha, Siddique, Mukesh, Devan, Sudheesh, V.K. Baiju, Shari, Surabhi, Bheeman Raghu, Rithesh and Tamil actor Bharani are some of the actors. Sudheesh plays EMS while Baiju acts as AKG. The star attraction, I feel, is octogenarian P.K. Medhini, who has acted, composed and sang in the film. It was an honour to work with this stalwart of the progressive movement in Kerala. This is award-wining cinematographer Kaviyarasu’s first work in Malayalam.

Another interesting aspect about the film is its music. Eight composers have scored the songs and this film happened to be the last work of Dakshinamoorthy Swami. M.K. Arjunan, Medhini, Perumbavoor Ravindranath, C.J. Kuttappan, James Vasanthan, A.R. Rehana and Anchal Udayakumar are the other composers. Twenty singers have sung the nine songs.

Why is it being released again after its first release in April this year?

The movie was released in March, when the State was on the eve of going to the polls. A complaint was filed with the Election Commission that the movie was to campaign for the Left. Since there was no intention like that, I decided to withdraw the film from theatres.

But please remember that this film is not about political parties and partisan politics. This movie is a tribute to a brave son of Kerala.

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 7:19:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/vasanthathinte-kanal-vazhikalil-film-on-p-krishna-pillai/article6590825.ece

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