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Man behind the writer

Padma Jayaraj

`Kovilan My Granddad,' zooms in on the life of the writer.



Close-up: Kovilan, left, with the director M.A. Rehman.

A documentary on litterateur Kovilan, who was honoured with the Kendra Sahitya Akademi fellowship, focusses on the man through the eyes of Jikku, his foster son. `Kovilan My Granddad,' by M.A. Rehman, was premiered in Thrissur, by the Kerala Sahitya Akademi. It documents his `thattakam' and its mystical aura.

At another level, the theme of the film is human dignity. And it documents the unrecorded history of folk music and stories and the charming but vanishing landscape of rural Kerala.

P.P.R. Chandran, producer, and Rehman, director, are concerned with a way of life that is becoming increasingly marginalised. Kovilan ran away from home to escape poverty.

He experienced the contradictions of political idealism coexisting with dark realities of existence, while serving in the Royal Indian Navy. After Independence, life in the navy filled him with angst. The vicissitudes of life moulded the man and the writer. The film depicts his sunset years in Kandanasseri, near Guruvayur, a region immortalised in his works. And the director takes his cue from the writer. Jayakiran, affectionately called Jikku, is the foster son of Kovilan.

Glimpses of the past

Jikku, while typing the autobiography of Kovilan, gets glimpses of the past: the life of his adopted granddad and his heritage.

Rustic life with all its lore, its simplicity and authenticity is a theme in the film. "When we took our first shot, Jikku was on the threshold of youth. Kovilan's life unfolds through dialogues with friends and monologues and lines from his novels too.

The close-ups reveal the interiors of the mind while the camera pans to capture the beauty of a waterlogged hinterland.

The camera work by Karthikayan has a lyrical quality.

The film also documents the rural ethos that is being eroded by the consumerist culture.

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