It is not often that a film would get a packed audience when a restored version of it is screened 43 years later. But, that is what happened with G. Aravindan's Kummatty on the second day of the 26th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) at the Sree theatre on Saturday. The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project, a programme created by filmmaker Martin Scorsese in 2007, the Film Heritage Foundation, and Italy-based Cineteca di Bologna had collaborated to bring back the film in all its original glory.
The story revolves around an oracle who arrives periodically in a village. During one of his trips, he works his magic and turns the children into various animals based on the masks that they are wearing. Later, when he transforms them back to their human forms, Chindan, one of the children, who had gone to show his new form to his sister, misses out. Chindan, thus has to live in a dog's form until the Kummatty's next arrival. In the audience on Saturday was Ashok Unnikrishnan, who played the 12-year old Chindan back then. Now, a retired man, he has never acted in a film since.
"When I acted in the film or when I watched it later, I couldn't really appreciate the meaning of many of the scenes. Now, watching it after so many years, I truly understand the depth of the film. Each of the scenes and the songs make a lot more sense now. Chindan, in his period of life locked up inside a dog's body, realises the pangs of bondage, which makes him release a bird from the cage as soon as he regains his human form," Ashok tells The Hindu.
Ashok acted in the film almost by accident. Next to his ancestral house in Sasthamangalam was the dance academy of Nattuvam Paramasivam, where many of the who's who of Malayalam cinema, including filmmaker Aravindan, used to frequent. The filmmaker approached Ashok's parents after finding a suitable character in him for his upcoming film.
‘A tough task’
Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, founder-director of the Film Heritage Foundation, says that restoring a film is more tedious than filmmaking, as the whole process of getting the prints and working on it for an extended period to extract all the lost qualities of the original is quite painstaking. The foundation is currently working on restoring Aravindan's Thampu.