By Mahesh Nayak
Mangaluru, August 15, 2018: A Kannada short film starring famous playback singer and actor M. D. Pallavi and veteran Tulu actor Ramdas Devadiga was premiered at Big Cinemas on Saturday, 11th August 2018. The screening took place before an invited audience in the evening.
Titled ‘Madi’ meaning ‘pure’, the film directed by Sudheer Attavar, is a stark look at untouchability and caste oppression in a rural Tulunadu setting.
The film explores the theme of caste discrimination and its heartless manifestation as seen through the eyes of a nameless boy (Master Santosh), a school kid who belongs to an untouchable caste. During the monsoon month of Aati, he dons the traditional garb of Aati Kalanja and gives performances at the local feudal households, while his mother Nokku (M. D. Pallavi) plays the drums and collects offerings for the act.
Aati being the peak monsoon month is considered to be especially destructive in folklore. The performance of Aati Kalanja dance is welcomed by the people as it is believed to bring in positive energy and keep away evil spirits. However the performer of the role himself is discriminated against as he belongs to untouchable caste. The little boy’s innocent mind cannot understand why people avoid touching him and his mother does not seem to mind it. They are a poverty stricken family barely able to survive. His father had drank himself to death, his grandfather is too feeble and sick. His mom is the only earner.
The boy observes the social hypocrisy of the people who worship the performer while playing the role of Aati Kalanja or Bhoota but actively discriminate and oppress the same person once he removes the mask.
At school, the master tells the class about Constitution of India and how it does not allow discrimination based on caste and creed. But the same man seems untroubled even when he sees the boy being made to get up and leave the temple premises when he was found squatting for a meal with the other kids.
The boy questions the unfairness of it all but is thrown out anyway. On the way home his mother who was looking out for him somewhere nearby slips and falls into the temple’s holy pond. He screams helplessly but none of the temple people come to her rescue and she is allowed to drown. In fact their new worry is that by falling into the pond, his mother has polluted it and the pond must now be ritually purified, at great expense.
The screening of the film was followed by an interaction session. The film’s director Sudheer Attavar said the principal photography for the film had been completed almost six years back. “This is one of the last movies to be shot on film camera before they were replaced by digital cameras. But due to several constraints we were unable to complete the post production. We could do so only now. Even the child actor of the film has grown up and is an adult now,” he said.
Participating in the discussion Dr. Jayaprakash Mavinakuli, Kannada playwright, author and professor, said the film had a touching message and the family’s poverty has been depicted realistically. “The oppressive caste system could survive because the people did not revolt. After independence we had a long spell of freedom in art, culture and intellectual expression, but today we mock at intellectuals. Society should encourage intellectuals because they see what really is the problem and not just superficially.”
Actor M. B. Pallavi said the film had the potential to be made into a full length feature film. “We hear people saying we should not highlight our social evils and instead we should project only the good things for the world to appreciate. Doing that is similar to the stealthy cat drinking milk with its eyes closed. It’s only fooling oneself,” she said.
Tulu film producer Nityanand Pai said the film might have had better impact if it was done in Tulu language as it would have conveyed a lot of nuance.
Tanwir, a businessman from Dubai, said he was impressed with the film and would try to get it screened at the Dubai Film Festival.
Albert Jossy Rego who presented the film welcomed the gathering. Working Journalists Union District President Srinivas Nayak Indaje greeted the filmmakers.
The film’s producers Vidyadhar Shetty and Suraj Charles as well as many of the cast members were present. The post production was done at Success Films India, Mumbai which is a new film production facility started by the film’s other producer Vidyadhar.
Title: ‘Madi – Cruelty of Dirty Minds’
Time: 25 mins approx.
Release Date: 11 August 2018
Director: Sudheer Attavar
Banner: Success Films & Suraj Visuals
Producers: Vidyadhar, Suraj Charles
Music: Aakash Pothula, Snehal Shikare
Cast: Ramdas Devadiga, M. D. Pallavi, Master Santosh, B. Raveendra Shetty, Venkat Rao, Sri Vatsa, Gopal Madantyaru, Indira Senere Hitlu and others.