Malayalam short film addresses issues of religious intolerance and the importance of living in harmony
Twenty years ago Balaram J fell in love with cinema after watching James Cameron films. “I remember being amazed by Titanic and Avatar. This is how I began to dream of becoming a filmmaker, ”he recalls. Now 24, Balaram recently published Oru Thudakkathinte Kadha, a Malayalam animated short on YouTube. The film is based on his own experience of finding the origin of a stream with his friend in his village called Onakkoor in Ernakulam. “I have fond memories of it. It was a summer evening and we walked for a while until we reached a small pond from where it started. Our joy knew no bounds at this discovery and we lay down by the pond looking at the sky for a while, ”he recalls.
Oru Thudakkathinte Kadha was produced as part of Balaram’s graduation project at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad. It lasts 11 minutes and 48 seconds. Although these are three friends who set off to find the origin of a flow, it plunges into more serious problems. “Aisha and Ambadi have strong convictions on the formation of the water body. I tried to highlight the issues of religious intolerance and the importance of people living in harmony despite our differences.
He conceptualized the story in March 2019 and discussed it with acclaimed Malayalam filmmaker Lijo Jose Pellissery. “I worked with him on his films like Jallikettu and Churuli. He guided me from the start and suggested that I go back to where I grew up and be with the children to better develop the innocence of my characters, ”he explains.
Balaram spent a few weeks observing the children and the place in Onakkoor. “I took pictures and also sketched the stream and its surroundings. I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything, ”he says. Actor Manu Jose helped him find local children to act out the scenes. “He trained the children and I recorded everything. Their movements and emotions were used as a reference for the animation.
The hardest part for Balaram was the production. “I don’t like spending a lot of time in front of the computer. But I had to spend months in my room, drawing, redoing and editing. The film lasted a year, ”says Balaram, who used TV Paint, After Effects, Photoshop and Premiere Pro for the project. For post-production, he worked with award-winning sound designer Renganaath Ravee, composer Sreerag Saji and creative studio Eunoians.
Oru Thudakkathinte Kadha has traveled to over 30 film festivals including the Bengaluru International Film Festival, Chaniartoon International Comic and Animation Festival, Greece, and Seoul International Cartoon and Animation Festival, Korea from South. Balaram is currently working on two live action films. “We keep in touch The lost grasshoppers which reminds us that even a small patch of grass has an ecosystem that depends on it. The second project has just started and I am working on its casting, ”he concludes.