THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: ‘’This can happen only in Kerala’’ - that was Sri Lankan filmmaker S Someetharan reacting to his film ‘Mullaitivu Saga’ receiving the special mention from the jury of the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala on Thursday for making a film under extremely difficult conditions and strife.
Just hours before he was warmly greeted by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Minister of Films K B Ganesh Kumar before an august audience, Someetharan was being tracked by intelligence officials. ‘’I am being watched ever since a newspaper reported that I was trying to regroup the LTTE in Kerala. Yesterday, they came to the place where I was staying, but I was at the Kairali theatre. Later on, they came asking for the DVD of my film,’’ recalled the tenacious filmmaker from the northern part of the island nation.
It was this that made the special mention extra-sweet for the film director, who had to go through great hardships to piece his film together from the various clippings he had to literally smuggle out of the country.
When he heard his name being called out, he got up, walked a little and stopped wondering if he heard it right. ‘’It was an overwhelming moment. This actually meant that the people here had accepted my film. I do not think this would have happened anywhere else, not even in Tamil Nadu,’’ said Somee, as he is fondly referred to by friends, a whole lot of whom he lost in the war.
Just as he did his three houses, his parents’ wedding album, all his childhood memories and relatives, most of whom had to move over either to Europe or Canada,
‘’It is the post-war scenario that is the most traumatic. It is a huge population that have lost everything - no houses, no jobs, no means of livelihood. There are restrictions on fishing and farming as well as. And anyone daring to question the government, including the Simhalese, are eliminated,’’ said Somee.
For someone who was displaced five times and who had to spend many a month hiding in the forests, Somee says that his film is not from the point of view of the LTTE, but that of the people. The footage of the film was all taken by friends from strife-torn areas, who then threw away the cameras out of fear and passed the memory card from one person to another until it reached Somee.
For the first three months, Somee could not edit the horrendous images. ‘’We could not edit, neither could we eat or sleep after seeing the visuals. It was six hours of hell. I have only used the watchable shots, which many say is terrible. I have five and a half hours of the worse ones with me,’’ he said. Somee has used military visuals, UN satellite photographs showing hospitals being attacked, footages uploaded via the Net by friends and the voice of the authority saying that it is a humanitarian operation.
The 29-year-old filmmaker, who considers Kannaki the first revolutionary woman ever, has based his film on ‘kannaki-koothu’, telling the story of a brave woman who fought for justice for herself and her husband. Cries, exodus, deaths, corpses and helpless faces of children and grown-ups are gory enough to shake up even the most insensitive person on the planet.
This 47-minute film, Somee’s second on Sri Lanka, has been screened all over the country and several European countries and Canada, from where his friends constantly ask him to visit. ‘’I want to go back to my homeland. But, if not, I would like to continue my life at least in India. I feel so much at home in Kerala, the landscape is similar and we also have these tiled houses back at home too. We also eat ‘appam’ and ‘puttu’, you know,’’ said Someetharan, as the train he was travelling in chugged out of the Thiruvananthapuram Railway Station.