The film has won the National Award for Best First Non-feature Film of a Director for the year 2003. The citation says: `An Encounter with a Life Living,' depicts the plight of a physically incapacitated Sarasu and her cheerful will to live. The director achieves this bringing out the totality, spiritual richness of a "life lived only in the mind" - through an innovative narrative idiom'.
An innovative narrative idiom: that is Suja's primary achievement. When we think of a documentary film on a disabled person, we are struck with a stereotype image of a film describing the plight and the discrimination faced by the subject. But what Suja has done is different: She has juxtaposed her own life with that of Sarasu's, thereby blurring the thin line between the filmmaker and the subject.
Suja is a woman leading a happy life outwardly, but deep inside she feels a void. Parallel to that we are shown a crippled Sarasu, whose world is limited to a stretcher in a home for the handicapped, but she is leading an inwardly fulfilling life, like the musk-deer who seems to have solved the mystery of the fragrance surrounding her. She tends to find everything within herself, what so-called normal people find difficult to do.
The film progresses as an exchange of thoughts between the filmmaker and her subject on various pertinent aspects of life like mobility, art, God, womanhood, dreams, etc.
Suja propagates the `Hand-of-God' theory when asked about the unique narrative form of her film, which took a year to evolve in her mind. "I can only credit it to God, I have no idea how this form came to me, it is He who has inspired me," she says with humility.
Suja was a novice as far as the technical aspects of filmmaking go, though she had worked with a private television channel as a Production Assistant. It was with the support of her experienced technical crew that she accomplished her vision. "I had no idea about camera placements. I just used to tell the cameraman, K. G. Jayan, what I had in mind and he used to take care of the rest," she says. And she also had to convince some sceptics in the crew not to see her film as a conventional documentary.
Suja's husband, Vinu Abraham, a short story writer and a journalist, working with a leading English magazine, has produced the film. He had written about Sarasu's book, which prompted Suja to meet her and do a film on her, but there was no interference from Vinu's side as far as the making of the film goes. "We never interfere with each other's work, most of the time I read his stories only when they are published," says Suja.
A doting mother of two very young children Suja does not want to pursue filmmaking as a profession, though there are couple of strong subjects in her mind, but she will let them evolve inside her, before she gets to the actual filming.
PARESH C. PALICHA
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