It was some three decades back that the birds whirred in their skies, spraying down death and disaster. Since then babies are born with swelled-up heads and scaly skin, their eyes dark and their torso twisted. Water in the fields turned toxic and insects and reptiles vanished for a while. It was the birds with large wings that caused it all - choppers that rained endosulfan to protect the cashew trees. Rural Kasaragod is still an inferno, a land of the dead and those who await an agonising death. Valiya Chirakulla Pakshikal, Dr Biju’s latest film, is woven around this distressing real-life premise. “The film addresses an entire spectrum of issues - it maps the tragedy from the very beginning, moving forward to the present-day scenario. It portrays the victims caught in their torturous life, activists who keep fighting for them and the state’s insensitivity,” says the director.
The film is told through the perspective of its nameless hero, a character inspired by photojournalist Madhuraj and played by Kunchako Boban. He says just a small percentage of the film is fiction as it features real victims and villagers along with actors. “I started the film after interacting with victims and their families and going through each and every documentation of the tragedy. The government list doesn’t include all victims denying them any financial help. Over the years their their medical loans have amassed and they are still getting confiscation orders from the courts,” he says. Along with Kunchako, Nedumidi Venu, Anu Mol, Suraj Venjaramoodu, Prakash Bare, Thampi Antony and Krishnan Balakrishnan are also part of the cast.
The film was completed in one-and-a-half years as it records the spring, winter, summer and monsoon in the misery-struck villages. “Though it has been a burning issue for nearly three decades, there was no proper intervention from the part of the state. We still discuss Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but conveniently forget about those around us. Valiya Chirakulla Pakshikal will remind you of them,” he adds.
Dr Biju says the film follows an experimental format as it blends live interviews and protests with fiction. “It’s not easy to classify the film into some particular genre. I don’t know any other Malayalam film was made in such a template.” Valiya Chirakulla Pakshikal, produced by Dr A K Pillai, will hit the screens this Friday. The film, which has been screened at a handful of festivals, is also part of the ‘Malayalam Cinema Today’ section of 20th IFFK.