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Filmmaker Biju rues lack of concern for nameless people like municipal sweepers

Suraj Venjaramoodu in a still from the film Perariyathavar
Suraj Venjaramoodu in a still from the film Perariyathavar
Physician turned film director Biju is deeply disappointed at the lack of concern among the people and the authorities for the faceless, nameless people like municipal sweepers and those belonging to marginalised sections of the society.
 
He took up this issue in his National Award winning film “Perariyathavar” (Names Unknown) that depicts the plight of a sweeper, whose services were yet to be regularised, through the eyes of his son. They are forced to vacate their makeshift home next to the rail tracks as the colony was bulldozed for redevelopment work. 
 
It won two awards at National Film Awards 2013--for Best Film on Environment Conservation/Preservation and the best actor award for Suraj Venjaramoodu. 
 
Suraj, usually known for his comedy roles, plays the lead role with conviction and brings out the pathos and suffering of a single parent trying to bring up a small child in the absence of his dead wife. 
 
The film, commercially released in August, 2016, was screened by Clone Cinema Lovers, in association with Kerala Union of Working Journalists at Kerala House on September 25.
 
At a question-answer session that followed the screening, Dr Biju said the residents of Brahmapuram in the vicinity of a designated open air garbage dumping yard in Kochi had abandoned their houses and shifted elsewhere following unbearable stench and filthy conditions. 
 
These houses, situated among dust covered trees and stunted vegetation, were being rented out to migrant labourers from the eastern and North Eastern states, he added. 
 
Meanwhile, almost on a daily basis, Kerala newspapers carry full page advertisements about multi-storied housing projects offering every sort of luxury, tennis courts and swimming pools, including full compliance with ‘Vastu’ principles. However, they seldom talk about waste disposal.
 
In the absence of any system of garbage removal on the part of promoters of the luxury villa/flat projects, residents in almost all cities and towns in Kerala are forced to pack the household waste in plastic bags and take it in their cars to be thrown on the roadside or vacant plots.
 
Then it becomes the thankless task of the faceless, nameless sweepers, employed by the city corporations, often on temporary basis. In the film, the main actor is seen picking up garbage tied up in plastic bags, abandoned on the footpaths and roadside and carefully depositing in waste bins.
 
Even while taking a bath in a polluted stream near his house, Suraj, who remains nameless in the film, collects all the plastic waste and deposits on the banks of the stream.
 
Dr Biju, in the making of the film, had drawn upon various incidents reported in the newspapers and his own experiences. Thus, the viewer gets glimpses of the protest by local residents against a garbage dumping yard, rape of a little girl, the protest by tribals in a forest area, being sought to be displaced in the name of development. The last mentioned incident provides the climax in the form of police firing on the protestors.
 
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The filmmaker said several people, after seeing the film, had asked him questions like “where in Kerala can you find people sleeping on the pavements and bus stands?” In fact, the shots appearing in the film are from footage recorded by the film unit during their travels across the state.
 
A controversy had erupted over remarks Dr Biju made in a Facebook post against renowned film maker Adoor Gopalakrishnan describing the latter’s latest movie ‘Pinneyum’ as an amateur movie. Adoor, on his part, accused Dr Biju of jealousy and lack of knowledge about movie making.
 
Dr Biju said a filmmaker of Adoor’s standing should have at least watched his movie and pointed out the flaws before making such a statement.  
 
He also regretted that most of the film critics, who could write realms and realms about commercial films, chose to ignore “Perariyathavar”.  
 
While the film had undoubtedly succeeded in raising awareness about the issues, it fails in bringing an emotional connect with the viewers. Unlike a commercial film, there is hardly any drama or neatly tied up conclusions.
 
There are no negative characters, except the unseen hands of powerful vested interests in the form of the government and the industry. 
 
NNN
 
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