It’s raining picturesque

Monsoon Records, a series of four short videos by artist Vimal Chandran and cinematographer Ajay Menon, featuring Malayali’s beloved band Avial’s music, is a trip down nostalgia.
K C Ramakrishnan
K C Ramakrishnan

KOCHI: It is going to be hard to find a Malayali who hasn’t fallen in love with Kerala’s monsoon. The comfort in its air, the smell of the earth dampened by unceasing rains, the greenery that crawls into every inch of your eye - leaves to mould on brick walls, it’s all precious nostalgia.

This year, the pandemic has left so many of us stranded in faraway lands, only reminiscing the monsoon in our memories, wishing for the rains as we sit down with a cup of tea.

Monsoon records, a collaboration from artist Vimal Chandran and cinematographer Ajay Menon, draws that picture before us a little too easily, coupling it with so many little pieces of Kerala’s villages and their simple life.

The song uses Malayalam rock band Avial’s song karukara karmukul as its soundtrack.

“After the pandemic set in, I came back from Bengaluru to my home town near Palakkad. It felt very different, the lifestyle and nature, the simplicity. Ajay and I were discussing about working on a monsoon project for a while now, and finally got the time to bring it out,” says Vimal.

When the duo went location hunting, Ajay realised that Vimal’s village is perfect for the earthy concept they had in mind.

“Most of the videos were shot behind his house in a small village. The pond, paddy fields, an old temple, the children, it was all very genuine. All we had to do is be witnesses with a camera,” says Ajay, who is the cinematographer of the latest OTT release movie ‘Halal Love Story’.

The series has four videos of one minute each, made in association with Vivo X50. 

It brings out the beauty of untouched villages in North Malabar, a representation that is hard to find in Kerala’s tourism map, says Ajay.

“The focus has always been on mainstream tourism spots - the hill stations and backwaters. But so many people messaged us asking where the location was. Many Malayalis living outside the state relate to such delicate scenes from their childhood,” says Ajay.

The first disc takes you on a refreshing trip into nature. Where Vimal visits a pond, where children dive and swim as thunder rumbles. The second one chases Vimal’s grandmother as she makes her trip to the old temple through dim-lit country roads lined by trees and creepers, and lights the evening lamp.

The third one, is about the wonders of nature as seen by a little girl, as she ventures into the world around her. The fourth one, brings in ‘Paava Kathakali’ artist K C Ramakrishnan, who received the national Sangeetha Nataka Akademi Award for his contribution to Indian puppetry. He turns a storyteller for the little children of the village. At the end of every disc, Vimal paints a picture of the nostalgia on the sketchbook.

“Technological limitation makes your craft better,” says Vimal, while talking about having shot the entire series on a phone camera. “Both Ajay and I have worked on big sets with advanced equipment. There is this notion, especially in the digital space now, that having good equipment gives a good product. That is not true. If you have a story and the imagination for it, equipment doesn’t matter,” says Vimal.

Avial’s rain hymn
Rex Vijayan, founding member and lead guitarist of the band Avial, also has very rainy memories of karukara karmukil.

“It was funny, how every time we play this song for soundcheck, it would end up raining before the show. Few organisers tell us to skip this song for soundcheck. It has always been associated with the feel of rains,” he says. Ajay and Vimal second this whimsical theory. “It’s true. It was sunny when I called Ajay in for the shoot. But when we started, it wouldn’t stop raining. It even rained when we uploaded it,” quips Vimal.

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