Kerala state film awards: 'Vasanthi', a journey through stage plays, story-telling and a host of male domains
'Vasanthi', by the Rahman brothers came to fruition after nearly three years of blood and sweat and was declared the 'Best Film' of the year at the 50th Kerala State Film Awards.
KOCHI: Rahman brothers are ecstatic. 'Vasanthi', their experimental film that came to fruition after nearly three years of blood and sweat, was just declared the 'Best Film' of the year at the 50th Kerala State Film Awards.
"We were definitely not expecting this win," Sajas Rahman told TNIE, as his elder brother Shinos Rahman nodded along. "It came as a pleasant surprise."
'Vasanthi' is the duo's second full-length feature film after their critically-acclaimed 'Kalippaattakkaaran' (Toy maker), which was well received at film festivals across the world. "As the name suggests, our first film was about a young toy maker who tries to make sense of the impermanence of life. The protagonist was inspired from a real-life character, but it was not his story. It deals with the common man's struggle for existence and the quest for his identity," Shinos explained.
"The idea for 'Vasanthi', on the other hand, took root after we came across Indira Parthasarathy's Tamil play 'Porvai Porthiya Udalgal'," Sajas said. "We are not saying that the play is similar to the film in anyway. But certain thoughts that 'Porvai Porthiya Udalgal' imbibed in us was what eventually evolved into the film. It is a journey that traverses through stage plays, storytelling, and a host of male domains in Vasanthi's life. Swasika did justice to the role wonderfully, as was rightly recognised by the jury with her 'Best Character Actress Award'," he said.
Theatre and cinema have historically had a symbiotic relationship, but the link between these two worlds is especially close to the heart for Sajas, who has an extensive theatre background. He is an alumnus of the School of Drama, Thrissur, and has directed several plays before venturing into the world of films. Shinos, on the other hand, is first and foremost a video editor, who has bagged prestigious awards including the Balan K Nair Memorial Award and the AKPA Best Editor Award.
'A balancing act'
All that said, the duo still has a bone to pick with the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy. As is the case with many independent filmmakers and technicians of Malayalam cinema, Shinos and Sajas Rahman continue to question the academy's tendency to sideline off-beat and experimental films. It is over this contention that they had teamed up with a number of like-minded filmmakers, technicians, critics, and cine artistes last year to form the 'Movement of Independent Cinema' collective, ahead of the International Film Festival of Kerala 2019.
"We are not saying that films from the supposed parallel stream don't get recognised at all. In fact, many of the films that won awards this year were by independent filmmakers. Kani Kusruti won the 'Best Actress Award' for her performance in 'Biriyani', which is an indie film. So is 'Kenjira', the 'Second Best Film' this year. But it's almost always just a balancing act. The jury ends up giving half of the awards to mainstream films, and then hand over a few to experimental movies so that this tendency won't be questioned. This is what we are raising our voice against,"
Shinos said. Shinos was, in fact, one of the three petitioners who recently filed a writ petition in the High Court, against the submission of 'Nine' for competing in the Kerala state awards, alleging nepotism in its conduct. The film is produced by actor Prithviraj and directed by Jenuse Mohammed, son of director and Kerala State Chalachitra Academy chairman Kamal.
Digital is the future
As is expected considering the Covid-19 situation, 'Vasanthi' may soon be available on an OTT platform. "We haven't decided anything yet and are still in talks. But it is most likely to be released on an online platform," Shinos said.
"Independent films often take a new life on the internet, travelling far and wide to reach cinephiles who can truly appreciate it. There is no doubt that this is the future of indie cinema," he pointed out. The brothers are already in the works of their next film. It is about an old man and the sea, but not that 'Old Man and The Sea'. "We are not yet in a stage to speak about it, but we assure you that it has nothing to do with the Hemingway novel," Shinos said with a laugh.