‘Aana Premi’ lays bare jumbo irony in 4 mins

Aana Premi (Elephant Lover), presented at IDSFFK highlighted the painful paradox of  elephant lovers is it a case of ‘love’ or sadism?   brilliantly, packing much to ponder over in 240 seconds.
Aana Premi
Aana Premi

KOCHI:  Elephants, the state animal, are a subject of great interest in Kerala. This is often represented through visuals of the Malayali ‘aana premi’ or elephant lovers’ fascination for caparisoned tuskers during festivals. However, the spectacular imagery and its grandeur conceal an uncomfortable question: Is it a case of ‘love’ or sadism?   

A throught-provoking animation film, Aana Premi (Elephant Lover), presented at the ongoing 15th International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK) in Thiruvananthapuram highlighted this painful paradox brilliantly, packing much to ponder over in 240 seconds.  

Written and directed by Shamil Raj, the film exposes the irony of people who claim to be “aana premis”. It lays bare the torment endured by the hapless captive elephants through a role reversal. A half-naked man is shown on all fours, chained and paraded through crowds of cheering elephants during a festival. He is mercilessly thrashed to follow commands as the jumbo crowd revels in festivities. 

With the assistance of animators Vishnu Ramachandran and Sethu Lakshmi, Shamiul presents the man as what elephants are reduced to in reality – a mere object of amusement. Reflecting on the project, the director says he wanted to “redefine” the term ‘aana premi’. “I wanted to convey the torture these innocent creatures are made to suffer,” he adds. 

“Different opinions may arise, and some may object to the socio-political undertones in the film. But this is the reality, and I hope the film helps raise awareness.” Metro Films Society member and TV newsreader Rajeswari K K lauds the effort. “I’m amazed by what they conveyed in just four minutes,” she says. “It’s kind of unsettling to watch the pain inflicted by humans projected back onto us.” 

Notably, Kozhikode-based Shamil has been a regular at previous IDSFFK editions, though mostly as a delegate enjoying films with friends. “This marks my debut as a scriptwriter and director for an animation film,” says the filmmaker, whose Penn Kadhakal won the third prize in the Kerala Government Youth Welfare Shortfilm Competition. 

“This film festival serves as a platform to express our emotions, thoughts, and suppressed ideas. It also provides an opportunity to view the works of fellow filmmakers, enabling us to learn and refine our own craft.”

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The New Indian Express