History is an eternal lure for filmmakers, and period dramas one of the most popular genres. But Anil V Nagendran’s Vasanthathinte Kanal Vazhikalil is not yet-another retro film as it blends fiction and fact in equal measure. The film set in the 1940s traces a tumultuous past through the lives of a handful of people. “As its title suggests, the film is about people who braved dangerous storms for the benefit of society. The spring we enjoy today is the result of their suffering,” says the director.
The film has two time frames - first the contemporary Kerala and second the milieu of 1946. “The film opens as a group of media professionals start a journey in search of individuals involved in various historic struggles. They find 88-year-old Chirutha, a farm labourer who recounts for them a less known history. The film chronicles her memories of the past, a time when peasants were suffering under brutal landlords. It was a time when P Krishna Pillai was hiding in one of the huts near Chiruta’s. The film also records a revolutionary period in the history of Kerala tracing the upheaval of peasants and its aftermath. It also touches upon renaissance leaders like Sree Narayana Guru, Chattambi Swami and Ayyankali,” he explains.
The makers of Vasanthathinte Kanal Vazhikalil had to recreate an entire village complete with expansive paddy fields before they started filming. “More than six kilometers of land was converted into a Kerala village of the 40s. The art work involved creating an entirely different topography and demanded so much of precision. We made mud roads, ponds and a vegetation at various stages of growth,” he adds. While Samudrakani, Siddique, Mukesh, Sudheesh, V K Baiju, Devika, Ullas Pandalam, Surabhi, KPAC Lalitha, Urmila Unni and P K Medini play important roles, an array of labourers are also part of the cast.
Director says more than being a period film portraying a turbulent time in history, it’s a film that leaves behind a strong message. “Alcohol, drugs, dowry, domestic violence, corruption, environmental degradation - all these issues find a space in the film.”
Another highlight of the film is its music section which features seven composers and more than 20 singers including Yesudas and K S Chitra. “It’s the last film of the late Dakshinamurthy. The others include M K Arjunan, Preumbavoor G Ravindranath, A R Reihana, James Vasanthan, P K Medini and C J Kuttappan. It will be a record in Indian film music,” he says.