THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Conversations under the grand old mango tree of the University College have helped many students achieve lifetime lessons, firming up their ideals. The topic of discussions were eclectic. For Jaya Jose Raj C L, who was pursuing his BSc in the late 80’s at the college, discussions on nature and humanity were the most appealing. Those days students had access to prominent film makers of the time such as John Abraham, K R Mohanan, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Padmarajan who would make the discussions under the mango tree lively. Like many others, Jaya Jose too was attracted to the kind of films the masters talked about.
“I became interested in filmmaking after attending these conversations under the tree. I also followed their films insistently,” said Jaya Jose who won the Kerala State television awards for 2016 which was announced this week, for the best director and documentary Khalasis of Malabar: Men who move mountains. He will begin shooting a woman-centric feature film in March next year.
Despite earning a government job at a young age, his interest to make films did not dwindle. At 22-years, he made his first short film on the plight of Parvathy Puthanar, a city canal still affected by encroachment and waste dump, in 1996. It was followed by another documentary on pollution caused by plastic, which won him a state award best documentary in 1999.
Those were days of U-matic tapes and linear editing, where editing was a laborious task. He made several documentaries, short films, ad films for Film Division and various government agencies. Some of it received entries to international film festivals. An alumnus of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune where he studied screenplay writing, Jaya Jose assisted director Rosshan Andrews in the film Notebook. His play ‘Section 302 Murder’ won Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi award in 2013 for best actor and actress.
Khalasis in Life
Selection of topics in his films have a pattern. It is either about things that affect humans or celebration of humanity. Khalasis belongs to the second category. “I had heard about the famed Khalasis but met them at Beypore while working in Wayanad. In my mind, I had this image of muscular men. They turned out to be ordinary men doing extraordinary work such as lifting sunken boats, bogies etc,” said Jaya Jose. According to him, the work of Khalasis is a celebration of workmanship. It is a curious combination of rhythm, craft and music.
“In frames, it will look like folk art even when they are involved in the most difficult labour. I must say it is a dying art,” says Jaya Jose. The jury that declared the award selected the film for the director’s decision to choose an extraordinary topic and give it a visual narration. Jaya Jose works as a Special Tahsildar at Civil Station in Kudappanakunnu. His wife Reena Das is a Judicial First Class Magistrate. The couple has two daughters- Nidhi R Raj (Class IV) and Sreenidhi R Raj (Class III).