KOCHI: Like any period film, recently released ‘Kammattipadam’ offered a gateway to the life in a bygone era. The movie had captured the life of a region called Kammattipadam in Ernakulam city in the late 70s, 80s and 90s and shows the transformation that the region and the people inhabiting it had undergone. The importance of ‘Kammattipadam’ lies in its depiction of a region in Ernakulam as an analogy for the many cities of the country, which transformed into places that bears no similarity to their past selves and buried the stories of the people who built them.
Loss of Identity
Kammattipadam is a region that encompassed the areas of Ponnurunni, Girinagar, Gandhinagar, Kadavanthra, Kochukadavanthra, Panampilly Nagar, Kumaran Asan Nagar and Jawahar Nagar before the 1960s. The land was under the ownership of the Idathamara Manaikkal family and the area was mostly ‘pokkali’ fields. The residents of the area say the early development of the city and the construction of the KSRTC bus stand in the late 1960s reduced the area of Kammattipadam to the few fields around the bus stand. “The region got its name from the ‘kammatti’ plants that grew in abundance around the fields. In my oldest memory of the region, the whole place was fields of ‘pokkali’,” says Soundararajan, who was brought up in the region.
The name Kammattipadam ceased to be used to identify the region as the city developed. Though the name was used commonly just two decades ago, it is curious how the name was obliterated from common parlance.
Development and Displacement
One might think that every place transforms with time and one should not rue things that are ‘inevitable’. But the development of Ernakulam city had a lot of causalities, as the film ‘Kammattipadam’ rightly depicts. Many of the people who had tilled the land and lived the life identifying themselves as the people of Kammattipadam, had to move out as ‘development’ dawned on the city. “Many people had to leave for other parts of the district as the area developed. It is painful when one looks back, a neighbourhood of people who were so close-knit and shared their lives has ceased to exist,” says Shiju, who was born and brought up in Kammattipadam.
‘Kammattipadam’ is a reminder to Ernakulam that is decking up to be one of the ‘smart’ cities in the country. A reminder that it is not just the buildings and the bridges that make up a city, that the humans who inhabit and built it are also an integral part.
A Sudden Intrusion of Progress
I came to Kammattipadam when my father bought land from Manaikkal family. I remember we bought 5 cents of land for Rs 600 in 1957-58. In those times, the place was a vast expanse of fields. From the place, you could see as far as the Lisie hospital. We also had some really great people here. Unnyalan was a prominent personality of the region and a few scenes in the movie reminded me of him. But the feeling of oneness among us was lost as GCDA’s developmental activities started in the region. Many had to leave their lands and go off to far away places. Development came so sudden that people of Kammattipadam were caught off guard
— Soundararajan (Kuttan) a bus driver with Govt Girls High School, still resides at his house in Kammattipadam
A Strong United Community
I was reminded of a lot of things after watching the movie. I had lived in Kammattipadam until a few years back. The people of the region were very close and each protected the other. We also had a strong culture of music and performance. Sasthampattu, udukkpaattu and kaikottikali were the common forms of expression for the people. But, we don’t find that here anymore. We were also very militant in those days. When I think of it now, the militancy was part of our survival. I have seen fights and chivalry of the people first hand. I think the movie has depicted the life of the time endearingly
— Shiju, came to Kammattipadam in the late 70s and was close to many of the real people who have been fictionalised in the movie