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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

പൊക്കുടന്‍റെ ജീവിതം ആസ്‌പദമാക്കിയ 'സ്‌ഥലം'

Pokkudan, 75, lives his life on the edge, just like the mangroves he has been planting in the marshy northern Kerala land. A film based on his activism could not be otherwise. Director Shivaprasad attempts an environmentally burning and spiritually awakening plot – of a man whose life cannot overcome corporatocracy’s plan to convert the mangrove forest into an IT park – in the philosophical-moral movie Sthalam (The Place). This cinematic attempt is almost holy, like a parable that may have a worn-out form but rich in essence. And technically the film, produced under the banner Avagama Creations, joins the camera revolution too. It is shot by the handy Cannon 5D.

Kerala’s living mangrove legend Kallen Pokkudan is a character with a similar name in the 2-hour plus film. He is the chieftain who is surrounded by numerous warriors supposedly representing the labyrinths of a society that is intertwined with a plethora of problems that travel beyond space and time. Despite the daily glitches and hitches, people who live below the official geographical line are content materialistically. But they react only when they are uprooted out of their land with government intervention. Displacement, like ecological encroachment is an equal debate here.

Like the mangroves serve as habitat to poor beings from snakes to honeybees, the film tries to row through the tides of politics, bureaucracy, casteism and capitalism. Folksongs and folkdances (theyyam) are sprinkled as an array of characters come and go with missions ranging from failed Naxalism to flourishing foreign love. The director, who also scripted the movie based on real events, has intentionally tried to edutain the viewers with the importance of his topic: the mangroves play an essential part in the eco-system where human beings have no control over other animals. The theme takes a pan shot when the script broadens its boundaries from people’s space struggle to what can be achievable with their mental space.

As the audience of this environmentally moral movie, we will have to forego the flabs of the storyline. The writer in Shivaprasad dominates the director in him. Thus we have philosophical musings throughout the movie and they are taxed with deft dialogues too (The opposite of worst is not best but better and good; space is time and time is space). Shivaprasad reads Pokkudan like a book. Osho and IMF suddenly appear in a conversation.

We will have to forgive the director who narrates a sequence in order to bring a philosophical point. This is always a challenge for storytellers and filmmakers: how to show an inconvenient truth in a comfortable manner. Considering the relevance of the environment friendly theme, the film deserves an active applause than a Facebook like. My applause without borders goes to Mariam Anoop who assigned this tsunami-resistant like task to Shivaprasad by producing the docu-feature film.


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