'Pada' director Kamal KM moves on Shyam Benegal's footsteps

Pada is about the displacement of Adivasi communities in India and the abuse of power and it travels back in time to an extraordinary episode of dissent involving the Ayyankali Pada.

Published: 22nd May 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st May 2022 09:34 AM   |  A+A-

'Pada' director Kamal KM. (Photo| EPS)

'Pada' director Kamal KM. (Photo| EPS)

Express News Service

When maverick Malayali filmmaker Kamal KM made his promising debut with the Hindi indie feature, I.D. (2012) - about a woman seeking the identity of a man who blacks out in her apartment - it was assumed that he would follow it up with his next film soon.

Strangely enough, it took a decade for it to arrive in the form of Pada, headlined by a stellar cast comprising Kunchacko Boban, Vinayakan, Joju George, Dileesh Pothan and Prakash Raj.

Pada is about the displacement of Adivasi communities in India and the abuse of power. It travels back in time to an extraordinary episode of dissent involving the Ayyankali Pada - a few men tried to have a tribal bill repealed about a quarter-century ago.

The incident had caught Kamal's attention. "I guess it struck a chord. It has been 25 years since the Ayyankali Pada incident, but its relevance is not lost. When we ponder the answers, we realise that nothing has changed. Back then, those four men were provoked by a particular issue, but the problem happens even now," he reflects.

The idea simmered in his mind until he decided he would wait no more to make his second movie.  "I felt that through this story, we could present the situation more strongly today. We saw the shocking lynching of the young Adivasi man, Madhu. Though it is about just one individual,  we should see the bigger picture - the historical truth concerning the disenfranchisement of an entire community," says Kamal, who viewed the cinematic recreation of the 1996 incident as a way to express the collective rage of the oppressed. 

Given how the story is based on real incidents, Kamal has been cautious about taking too many creative liberties. His goal was to keep his storytelling devoid of the theatrics that characterised older Malayalam films that ventured into similar terrain.

His aim was to keep the spirit closer to the work of some of his contemporaries like Nagraj Manjule (Fandry), Dr Biju (Perariyathavar) or even veterans like Mrinal Sen (Padatik) and Shyam Benegal (Samar). "We cannot adopt a larger-than-life approach with a story of this magnitude," says Kamal.

"I was adamant about not distorting facts for the sake of entertainment. We could only make minor improvisations. It was a big challenge, of course, to not stray from the true intentions of any character and yet, do justice to all of them. With such real stories, you have to check and recheck everything," he adds.

To that end, Kamal met and interviewed everyone on all sides, including the four men involved in the incident long ago, as well as the administrative officials in question. The crowning glory was to rope in four of the biggest names in contemporary Malayalam cinema to play the leading characters. "I wanted four actors with backgrounds and physical attributes that matched that of the real individuals," he admits.

The casting of the Chief Secretary who spearheaded the operation took some thinking on the team's part until they decided on Prakash Raj. "You will understand these choices when you see the film," he concludes.


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