IFFK 2017: Prasanth Vijay’s Athisayangalude Venal is an ‘experiment in subtlety’

  • By Hindu
  • | Thursday | 7th December, 2017

Anguleechaalitham, Prasanth’s much-lauded short film made in 2013, was a piquant take on competent consumerism snooping its way into human psyche. “For me, Athisayangalude Venal is the continuation of an experiment that I had begun with my short film, on how to tell a story with the minimum use of conventional cinematic tropes.” After finalising the script in 2015 May, Prasanth and friends conducted auditions and interviews across the State to find the actors. Anand first sees her as an enemy and later as a ‘fellow-conspirator’ who is also on a secret mission. The well-delineated character of Gayathri, Anand’s cousin who has come to the city for ‘Entrance coaching’, takes the story ahead.

In The Little Prince, the magical work of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the narrator shows a picture he has drawn and asks adults if the drawing scarces them. They wonder what's so frightening about a hat! None of them understands that it is a boa constrictor that has just swallowed an elephant.

Adults do have a nasty need to define everything around — be it things or emotions. They glance at them, label them, and stack them up in neatly arrayed boxes. So, we have rainbows, butterflies, flowers, and an occasional superhero set aside for children, when it comes to movies or literature for/about them. Athisayangalude Venal (Summer of Miracles), co-written and directed by Prasanth Vijay, which will be screened in the Malayalam Cinema Today section of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) this year, is a sharp detour from recurrent tropes of ‘child-centric’ cinema. It was also screened at the 19th MAMI Mumbai International Film Festival to critical acclaim.

“My film is an experiment in subtlety. Be it the characters or storyline, I have tried to leave it largely open-ended, providing minimal information and urging the viewer to reflect further on a given situation,” says Prasanth.

The film has ‘invisibility’ as its running thread. Nine-year-old Anand experiments with chemicals, Indian meditation, and even electricity in his mission to become invisible, and thus powerful. Even after a failed ‘operation’, Anand is sure that manipulating refractive index could make one invisible. Part of a middle-class family living in a nondescript flat in a Kerala city, the boy has ample love and attention showered on him, but none to understand his inner turmoil.

His innocent convictions are both endearing and heartbreaking as the reasons for his behaviour are revealed later on.

The simple, sincere narrative is essentially about how people deal with grief and tragedy, by escaping to their own fantasy worlds. The well-delineated character of Gayathri, Anand’s cousin who has come to the city for ‘Entrance coaching’, takes the story ahead. “I was particular about keeping the boy’s age between eight and nine, because, once that mark is crossed, the theme could easily slip into one of adolescent love when a girl enters the frame,” Prasanth says. We get a female protagonist who is intelligent and opinionated, and therefore ‘weird’ for those around her. Anand first sees her as an enemy and later as a ‘fellow-conspirator’ who is also on a secret mission.

After finalising the script in 2015 May, Prasanth and friends conducted auditions and interviews across the State to find the actors.

Chandra Kiran, who has no prior acting experience, is a graceful presence as is Arya Manikandan, who plays Gayathri. “Apart from the fact that we had a shoestring budget to begin with, I also wanted to avoid 'explanations' for each frame,” the director says.

He adds that all the characters have elaborate back stories and the audience is free to interpret their habits and behaviour. “Cinema has become a product that has to be made easily chewable in order to sell. I am trying to question such notions,” he says.

Anguleechaalitham, Prasanth’s much-lauded short film made in 2013, was a piquant take on competent consumerism snooping its way into human psyche. “For me, Athisayangalude Venal is the continuation of an experiment that I had begun with my short film, on how to tell a story with the minimum use of conventional cinematic tropes.”

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