Telling her story

Raconteur: P. Valsala is comfortable narrating tales as well as penning them down.

Raconteur: P. Valsala is comfortable narrating tales as well as penning them down.  


‘Jeevitham Pole Kathakal’ is a documentary on novelist P. Valsala.

How a school teacher becomes a prominent writer in Malayalam is narrated in ‘Jeevitham Pole Kathakal,’ a documentary on novelist P. Valsala, which was premiered in Kozhikode.

Directors Nadeem Noushad and Suresh Parapram have succeeded in telling Valsala’s story in an engaging way. The narration is backed by lovely visuals shot mostly in Wayanad, a locale that the noted writer holds close to her heart.

Series of monologues

The 22-minute documentary is a series of monologues by the Kozhikode-based writer. The author is at ease in front of the camera and proves she can tell stories and not merely write them.

The directors weave the story together without any voiceovers. Apart from the author’s monologues, there are excerpts of interviews with her. Certain incidents from her life have been dramatised to add flavour to the documentary. Valsala speaks at length about her masterpiece, ‘Nellu,’ the novel which shot her to fame.

“‘Nellu’ just happened; I did not contemplate on writing it. I wrote it after a rejuvenating experience in Wayanad,” says the author on camera.

She reveals she was not keen on turning her book into a film. “But when Ramu Karyat approached me for permission, I agreed because I had seen his movie ‘Chemmeen’ and was impressed by it. He asked K.G. George, S.L. Puram and me to write separate scripts based on the novel and in the end, took certain portions from all the three and made the film,” she says.

Valsala, who was not pleased at the outcome of the movie, goes on to say that she herself wanted to make a film based on her novel ‘Agneyam.’

“But I couldn’t because those days there were few opportunities for women to become filmmakers,” rues the writer.

Valsala also narrates her meeting with Naxalite leader Varghese. “I met him on the banks of Kalindi river in 1967; that was to be my only meeting with him. I had anticipated the armed revolution in Wayanad.”

And it is narrations such as these that make ‘Jeevitham Pole Kathakal’ an interesting watch. Christy George’s camera captures the lush greenery of Wayanad and gives viewers glimpses into the life of the tribals residing in the area. Shajahan Kaliyath’s paintings enhance certain frames of the documentary. Babu Santhalayam’s music is judiciously used.

Says Nadeem, one of the directors of the documentary: “I have wanted to make a film on Valsala for quite some time. We shot the entire film in two days and did the post-production also in two days.”

They could have, perhaps, taken another day or two to get some sound bytes from people close to Valsala or a literary critic, who could put into perspective her contribution to Malayalam literature.

Yet, films like ’Jeevitham Pole Kathakal’ deserve to be seen and encouraged. Kerala needs to document the lives of its gifted sons and daughters.

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