Clad in red and white, his face smeared in somber black, Karinkali is God incarnate. One of the umpteen intermediaries between the deity and the devotee, he walks the countryside with his sacred sword aloft. This is one of the rare occasions when a dark-skinned underdog raises in station on par with the cosmic forces. ‘Karie’, Naranippuzha Shanavas’ debut feature film, is set against this puzzling pageantry of ritual arts. “The film places the myth in a highly personal realm,” says the director.
‘Karie’, with its subtle-yet-strong title, explores the mental fabric of a society where caste becomes your primary identity. The film also maps out a journey from the state’s one end to other. “Karie means black. While there are tonal variations in culture across the state, the one thing that remains rock solid even today is the caste system. It’s the silent villain who isolates individuals on the basis of skin tone,” he adds. ‘Karie’ revolves around two expatriates – Gopu Keshava Menon and his partner Bilal – who travel to a place in rural Malabar. “Dineshan, who works for Menon requests him to visit his village and donate some money for the ritual of Karinkaliyattam. And, when they learn it’s an offering to make Dineshan’s job permanent, Menon decides to sack him,” he says.
Though the film is woven around a serious subject, there is an undercurrent of humour throughout the narrative. “The artist who was supposed to perform the ritual suddenly opts out following an accident. Menon is forced to step in as the patron and the duo go in search of a suitable Karinkali. And their search turns out to be a journey through the socio-cultural reality,” he adds.
The film starring Gopakumar, Ram Mohan and K T Satheeshan, was shortlisted for this year’s National Film Awards. ‘Karie’ is produced by Sudeep Palanad under the banner of Eye 2 Eye Cinema.