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Evolution of an activist

The documentary on M.N. Vijayan faces the risk of getting dated.


M.N. VIJAYAN, scholar, teacher and Left intellectual, is in focus in a documentary that has both contemporary and historical relevance. `Vijayan Mash' is a 45-minute documentary by the debutante film-maker Sofia Bind.

Shot in video format with no commentary support, the documentary weaves in and out of Prof. Vijayan's life, convictions and concerns, using visuals and his own words. The movement forward is mostly aided by single-question interviews and backward through his reminiscences. Beginning with an innocent question from a beedi-rolling worker of Kannur on the `Fourth World' theory that has rocked the Left in Kerala in recent months, the documentary explores the evolution of Prof. Vijayan as a political activist.

In the documentary, Prof. Vijayan returns to the school where he got initiated into politics, to Maharaja's College, Ernakulam, where he was among a clutch of youth who got beaten up for hoisting the Tricolour on the night of August 14, 1947, the various colleges where he took generations of students through the first paces of literary theory and criticism and to the people observing and interacting with whom he chiselled his world view.

With the physical and intellectual journey as its leitmotif, the documentary tries to maintain a delicate balance between the contemporary and the enduring.

Relevance

Contemporaneity makes the documentary relevant here and now and the enduring value of an intellectual's progress through life and ideas must add to its shelf life. The tension between the two is palpable in Sofia Bind's work. And with dangerous consequences. For the contemporary has within it the stuff to cloud out the enduring. It might have been the controversial aspect of Prof. Vijayan's public life that prompted Sofia Bind to choose him as her subject.

The question is whether Sofia Bind has understood the magnitude of the risk she has taken: the risk of the documentary getting dated once the dust settles in the theatre of power politics.

Fine camera work by Joselyn J. Alphonse and evocative music by Ravi Varma add to the charm of the documentary. Sofia Bind's treatment of her difficult subject is praiseworthy. She has followed Prof. Vijayan's brooding style and the documentary moves almost at the pace of his ruminations.

C. GOURIDASAN NAIR

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