Grounded in Reality

Malayalam writer-director TV Chandran talks about his trilogy based on the Gujarat riots and what it meant to shoot with frogs and spiders

Acclaimed Malayalam writer-director TV Chandran, 62, was in Delhi recently to promote his latest film, Bhoomiyude Avakashikal (The Inheritors of the Earth). It is the final installment of his trilogy based on the 2002 Gujarat riots, after Kathavasheshan (The Deceased, 2004) and Vilapangalkkappuram (Beyond the Wail, 2008).

In Kathavasheshan, the protagonist decides he cannot cope with the horrific memories and commits suicide. Vilapangalkkappuram is about a young woman who is gang raped and badly burnt but manages to escape from Ahmedabad by hiding in a truck that takes her to her father's hometown in Kerala. There, she finds herself facing challenges eerily similar to those she had run away from.

In Bhoomiyude Avakashikal, we meet Mohanachandran Nair, a youth who flees Gandhinagar as the riots break out and returns home. He starts living in a house inherited from his late mother, with a motley crew of insects and animals, such as spiders, frogs and tortoises, for company. As he strikes up a rapport with them, often engaging in conversations, he realises they, too, are inheritors of his land, that the earth belongs to them, and that it is he, in fact, who is the outsider and intruder.

Recurring themes of the film are endangerment and intolerance. "It was heartening to see the entire cast and crew become acutely aware that they must not disturb the animals in any way. We would all walk around gingerly on the sets. No one wanted to step on an ant, you see," says the former Reserve Bank of India staffer.

The 114-minute film, shot in digital format, shares its title with a short story by the renowned Malayalam author, Vaikom Muhammad Basheer. Bhoomiyude Avakashikal is slated to release by the month-end. It has been screened at international film festivals, as well.

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