Giving life to deep-rooted stories of the soil
Born and brought up in the rural landscapes of Pathanamthitta, filmmaker Vishnu Raj P's life was deeply rooted in the culture of the place
Some moments from childhood etched in his mind inspired Vishnu Raj P’s Malayalam documentary Mannu or The Soil.
Born and brought up in the rural landscapes of Pathanamthitta, his life was deeply rooted in rural cultures. Later, he found one special cultural aspect of the neighbouring district of Kollam. The unique rituals and heritage of Oachira Parabrahma Temple, popularly known as Dakshina Kashi.
Vishnu has weaved a 13-minute short documentary inspired by the temple rituals. His effort won the Special Mention award in the non-fiction category at the recently held International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala in Thiruvananthapuram.
Assistant professor of Malayalam at Sacred Heart College, Thevara, in Ernakulam, delves into the tension between ethnic communities and ritualistic views of people.
Vishnu says he aimed to visually narrate the rich culture of the regions organically. “Documentary is a medium where we can convey the idea through visuals directly to the public. As it is a budget-friendly medium, people like me can access it and deliver real stories around us,” he says.
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“I found that there are only a few documents that explore the richness and beauty of our local customs, which are less accessible to the next generation. Being a teacher and also an individual who cherishes this heritage, I decided to make The Soil.” The project also converses on agrarian culture and the human lives of Onattukara. Vishnu says the soil interconnects every ritual and God with human beings.
“The soil is given as prasad at the Oachira temple. Several devotees roll in the mud and some circle the temple barefoot on soil etc. The Oachira also has the culture of agrarian tradition of farming on mud. Thus it is also a question of how the soil is part of human civilisation and tradition,” says Vishnu.
“The temple transforms into a place of celebrations and festivities as the 28th day of Onam is observed with Kettu Kaalakal, where the effigies of bulls are taken out for processions.” Earlier, he had shot the documentary Peache in 2019. It narrated the life of folk artist Narayana Ashan, who wears Vinoda Veshangal in the Padayani art form in Pathanamthitta.
Vishnu plans to come up with more projects related to Kerala folk art forms and forgotten traditions. “These projects are also a medium to draw the public more towards documentaries and preserve our culture,” he concludes.
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