Shaji N Karun belongs to a rare breed of filmmakers who deftly portrays characters that touch the human ethos, pathos and logos. Like an onion whose core is revealed only after we peel off layer after layer, the thespians in his films are layered with myriad meanings, be it the Kathakali exponent Kunhikuttan in Vanaprastham or the mariner Kutty Srank in Kutty Srank. His movies have forever dealt with stories that delve into the deeper emotional psyche of the human mind. And the latest from the adept filmmaker is Swapaanam which intricately weaves the tale of a chenda artist Unni and danseuse Nalini and their journey together seeking the greater truths of life and existence.
The title of the movie in itself is bound to generate a special interest in anyone who comes across it. According to the director, ‘Swapaanam’ is a metaphor of an artiste. “For eons, artistes have had a certain placement in the society. And irrespective of the era, artists and artforms are a medium that play a key role in societal enlightenment. A person who is into various forms of art-be it playing the chenda, performing kathakali or dance, enlightens himself and his surroundings through the medium of his art. He is like a light, an energy that brings out the fire and illuminates everything around. Like the wick of a candle the artiste burns, lighting up lives around and passing on the light to others before burning out,” says Shaji who has now added a new word to the Malayalam dictionary with Swapaanam.
Ask the director about the rather unusual and unheard combo- a danseuse stepping in tune with the beats of a chenda, he says, “Theirs is a muse relationship. I know no one has experimented clubbing chenda with mohiniyattam but Nalini breaks conventional barriers and strikes that unusual chord with the chenda artist. When Unni plays the instrument, it is not the mere sound of the percussion that she hears, but the unspoken sound of the mind. And through her dance, she elevates both mohiniyattam and beats of the chenda into another level.” Jayaram dons the role of Unni and Odissi dance exponent Kadambari essays the role of the graceful Nalini.
Through their relation, the director delves into the transcendental level of a man-woman relationship. “Human love is expressed from deep within our minds and no one knows where this mind is located. An artiste rediscovers this mind in a different canvas. Every art form-be it a story, poetry or dance- evolves on the basis of the relationship between man and woman. Unni and Nalini are in a path of exploring this basis of man-woman tie up, whether it is love, hate, jealousy, repulsiveness or more pure and spiritual. A rhythm plays out in their hearts and they are on a search of finding what is the shade of their love,” explains the director who started his directorial career with the much-acclaimed Piravi in 1988.
The movie which gives prominence to music and songs, would be a musical treat for viewers with nine songs composed by Sreevalsan J Menon.
Ask how important is music for the narrative, Shaji says, “There is music everywhere. From the chirping of a bird to the minute sounds we hear in the surroundings-music is a medium of communication. Any kind of music be it Indian classical or western, it is a way of communicating with the supreme being. Thus the meaning of that communication changes as it takes the shape of an offering to God without expecting anything in return.”
Swapaanam is being produced under the banner of Horizon Entertainment. The script is penned by Harikrishnan and Sajeev Pazhoor, based on Shaji’s own story. Camera is cranked by Saji Nair. The film will hit screens on January 24.