PALAKKAD: Nanji chechi (sister), an Adivasi woman of Nakkupathy Piruvu ooru (place) in Attappadi who ekes out a living by grazing goats could not believe her eyes when she was invited by filmmaker Sachi and music director Jakes Bejoy to sing two songs for the film, Ayyappanum Koshiyum, which is set to hit the cinemas this week.
“This is the first film for which I am singing. I had been yearning for it for some time. I had a fascination with movies and used to visit the talkies in my neighbourhood to watch them. I went all the way to Chennai to record the songs”, a thrilled Nanji tells TNIE.
“Of the 65 days shoot of Ayyapunum Koshiyum, 62 days were confined to Attappadi alone. It is a full-length Attappadi film as only this tribal area could form the backdrop of this story. Just as Lakshadweep was the location for my debut directorial flick Anarkali, only Attapadi could do justice to this plot. Therefore, I wanted to include two folk songs by the tribals who appear to be talking Tamil mixed with Malayalam but it is not so. Even Tamilians fail to understand their language. The two songs depicting tribal folklore sung by Nanji chechi alias Nanjamma with the background score by music director Jakes Bejoy released in the social media on Saturday evening has recorded 3 lakh hits within hours,” said Sachy, the director.
Every frame depicts the forests, biodiversity, barren and undulating plains and life of Attappadi. I had read the novels of VKN which often mentions the Attappadi area and the tribals living there. I was in search of organic music which is natural and is set to traditional instruments and Nanjamma who belonged to the Irula tribe fitted the bill, added Sachy.
After Bhadran’s “Vellithira” starring Prithviraj, Bharathan’s “Thazhvaram” featuring Mohanlal and also his “Lorry” and also the award-winning “Carbon” of Venu which was shot for just a few days, it is Ayyappanum Koshiyum which has 98 per cent of its scenes from the tribal heartland of Attappadi, adds Sachy.
The hero, Prithviraj, and villain, Biju Menon are both protagonists and antagonists. Prithviraj essays the role of Koshy who serves as a Havaldar for 17 years and Biju Menon is a sub-inspector named Ayyappan Nair who has climbed up the rungs of the ladder from an ordinary policeman and has just two years to retire.
Another Adivasi who essays the role of an excise officer, Faizal was S. Pazhaniswamy who is employed as a tribal forest watcher in Attappadi. Pazhaniswamy was coincidentally the chairman of the Samara Samithi who led an agitation of tribal forest watchers including women during the previous Oommen Chandy regime demanding that 93 of them who were working for many years be made permanent.
The tribal watchers sat in dharna for 23 days before the secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram and succeeded in being taken into regular service.
S.Pazahniswamy, a recipient of the Yuvaprathiba award of the Folklore Academy in 2015 who hailed from Choriyan ooru of Kottathara was part of the Azad Kalasangam in Attappadi earlier which was engaged in performing tribal dances and rendering the traditional songs. Nanji chechi who sings in this troupe for the last seven years had bagged the award of the Folklore Academy in 2009 and has toured various states and performed at the Tribal national festival.
“My father had abandoned my mother when I was six years old. My mother later married another man. It was my grandmother, Ponni who brought me up. I had grown up in abject poverty and one of my ambitions was to act in films. The forest department gave me permission to act in the film and I am also grateful to them. More than 700 persons of Attappadi feature in this film as junior artists and I am proud of it,” said Pazhaniswamy.