The sound of the hills

Strong message

The sound of the hills

It’s the serene land that strikes the audience as the Malayalam movie, ‘Malettam - Conquering Heights’, begins. The children toughened by the wind and hardened by the sun and the sound and music of the hills bring the magic of the movie alive.

    And if that is not captivating enough, wait till you hear the big stories — of ecological destruction, economical development and political leanings, from a child’s perspective.

A little too fast-paced to come under the art category and far from the commercial spectrum, ‘Malettam’, directed by Thomas Devasya, is about the massive ecological destruction in what was once known as ‘God’s Own Country’.

Shot in pockets of the Western Ghats such as Kannur, Wayanad and Idukki, Thomas’s craft and eye for detail are educating.

He weaves a story out of experience while recalling how he was a friend of the hills and valleys, in the company of cows and goats.

     “Through the movie I question the modern notion of development. The film shows places where I spent my childhood such as Kannur and Wayanad. It depicts how I spent my days in the serene Ghats in an age that was not yet hit by technology. There is not much left that we can proudly pass on to our younger generation,” he says, dismally, at the eighth edition of Bengaluru International Film Festival.

Thomas has been on stage since he was five years old and has been dabbling with various creative projects.

He is now an English teacher.  “This subject was disturbing me for 15 years. I have used several elements in the film which become subjects of conflict later in the movie, like the wind, rain andwinter. People don’t have a connection with nature anymore. ‘God’s Own Country’ is just an expression now and I am trying to spread the message that such a place existed.”

He faced a number of obstacles but he was confident about the subject.     Thomas recalls, “It is a low-budget film and we were short of funds. Once a mob disrupted our shoot. The police came and arrested me. However, I continued the shoot the next day also. To add to my woes, I was not allowed to screen my movie at any film festival in Kerala. This may be because of political interference as I was taking an anti-government stance.”

       Thomas is grateful to  the film festivals held at Bengaluru and Kolkata for giving him an opportunity to screen his film.

     He proudly adds that ‘Malettam’ is the only Indian film to have been selected for screening along with eight other films from Asian countries at the ‘Kolkata International Film Festival’.

     He adds, “Kerala is supposed to have a thriving film culture. Over 15, 000 filmmakers and youngsters appreciate film as a medium of art and take it very seriously. So I was surprised when I was not allowed to screen my movie. I feel I am doing the job of the Government so it is their responsibility to promote me.”

      The director however is set to conquer many more heights.

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