We are often fascinated by many things - big or small. But how many of us wonder about the efforts which go behind the creation of every little thing we use in our daily life. Start with the mirror which is an inevitable part of our lives. Be it in our home or office we find ourselves unknowingly throwing a glance at our reflection.
We may never think about the skill and patience of the person behind the square or round piece on our wall. Apart from the normal ones, the ‘Aranmulakkannadi,’ closely associated with Kerala’s rich heritage, is known worldwide. P R Sreekumar, Additional Secretary with the Government Secretariat and now Registrar of the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute, Palode in his search for novelty, heard of the bronze mirrors of Adakkaputhur in Palakkad district which led him to make a documentary named ‘Vaalkkannadi’ about them.
“I had plans to make a documentary on the work of ‘moosaris’ whose work is not much known to the outer world. They take lots of pain in creating each article. Now people prefer to buy things directly from the shops. So the moosaris, who specialised in making idols, large utensils used in temples, churches etc called ‘vaarppu,’ seldom get big orders. So they are forced to take up other jobs to sustain life. On one such journey to find skilled moosaris, I learnt about the Adakkaputhur mirror,” says Sreekumar. The 17-minute documentary, produced in a special angle, easily catches the viewers’ attention.
One watches spellbound at a man’s single-handed effort which goes into the production of a beautiful mirror in the age of technology. The steps in the making of the mirror are beautifully captured in the documentary. The model of the base piece of the mirror is formed by coating an earthen block with wax flattened to a certain thickness. The mould for the mirror is formed by using wax between two earthen plaques. After the wax model is ready, a mixture of burned mud, clay and fibres is applied on the mould. The mould is put into a specially arranged furnace. Once the wax in the mould melts, the molten alloy is poured into the space earlier occupied by it. As it cools, the metal is taken from the mould and polished to become the mirror.
The scenic beauty of Vellinezhi has also been presented well in the documentary. Kathakali exponents like Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair, Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair, Thayambaka expert Mattannoor Sankarankutty and Kothavil Ramankutty Asari also hail from Vellinezhi. Balan Moossary, from Adakkaputhur village of Vellinezhi in Palakkad after doing many experiments succeeded in making bronze mirrors, 27 years ago. It is a surprising fact that Germany or other European countries which have rich bronze deposits have not yet developed the technology of making mirrors from bronze. After Moosari passed away, his younger son, M P Krishnakumar continues his legacy.
Just like Aranmulakannadi, where the technology behind the making of mirrors is known only to the family members, here also only Krishnakumar knows the right proportion of the alloys r e q u i r e d f o r making‘Adakkaputhur Kannadi.’ “My father developed this technology during my schooldays. So he helped me master the technique, which I continue to use even now,” says Krishnakumar. Krishnakumar makes the mirrors in three different sizes. The Adakkaputhur mirror is believed to bring positive effects to the family which keeps it. So, many people are now known to keep the mirror in their pooja room. Sreekumar wishes more and more people would come to know about Adakkaputhur and the mirror.
He said the Minister for Culture had promised to bring Krishnakumar to a function in the capital city so that more people would come to know about him. ‘Vaalkkannadi’ won the Best Documentary Award at the Short Documentary Fest ‘Dakshinaa E x p o s u r e - 2013,’ held in Chennai on November 3. Sreekumar, who has also written the script for the documentary, won the Best Director Award for the film. Sreekumar has directed many documentaries which include ‘Neelakkurinji,’ ‘Pambattam,’ ‘Parameswaravijayam: Oru chuttikadha’; ‘Vallithai’ (docu-fiction) and two short fictions - ‘Naalam Pookkaalam’ and ‘Chavara Parukkutty: Kathakaliyile Sthree Parvam,’ which have won numerous awards.
“Each year I try to come up with a documentary on a subject or a person less noticed in detail by many,” Sreekumar says. The same reason made me to produce ‘Parameswaravijayam: Oru Chuttikadha’ in 2008 focusing on ‘chuttikuthal’ in Kathakali. The film won the Best Documentary of Artistic Value and the Best Commentator Awards in the Kerala Film Audience Council Video Film Festival, 2008, besides the Film Critics Television Awards, 2008, for the Best Documentary.
It won the jury’s special mention for direction in Kerala State Television Awards 2008 for documentaries and was selected as the official entry for the Punta del Este Documentary & Fiction Festival 2010 held in South America. ‘Vallithai,’ his docu-fiction in 2009, was selected as the Best Documentary and won the award for Best Editing in the 5th Kerala Film Audience Council Video Film Festival 2009. It won the Film Critics Television Award 2009 for the Second Best Documentary, got official selection in the Strasbourg Documentary and Short Film Festival, 2011, France and the Special Jury Award for direction in ‘Dakshinaa Exposure 2011’ in C h e n - nai.