Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Film and A Time

Njatadi – The Film and its Time

Films follow curious lives. While some films are remembered for their
memorable story, character or acting, certain films stand apart for
their radical otherness and refusing to play to the dominant tunes of
the time. The latter kind are rediscovered as moments in history. The
case of ‘Njatadi’, debut film by Gopi made in 1979, is one such story.

Gopi, director of Njatadi at the sets

Literally ‘njatadi’ means the bed of seedlings in a paddy field; it is
the site where fresh seedlings are weeded, sorted and kept for
planting. Thought njatadi itself does not result in any yield, the
tender plants in it provide the future harvest. In that sense,
‘Njatadi’ the film could be seen as a metaphor of sorts. Most of those
who were part of this venture went on to make significant
contributions in cinema and other fields: Gopi, its director, actors
like Murali, K R Mohanan (now Chairman of Kerala Chalachitra Academy)
and Aliyar, cinematographer Vipin Mohan, etc. It featured several
other first-time actors like veteran journalist V R Korappath,
Kalamandalam Girija, MK Gopalakrishnan etc. It was also entirely shot
and processed in Keralam.

Paradoxically, the film was screened only twice and its print still
untraceable. For a film like that, which was seen only by a few, there
is every chance of it being relegated to the oblivion. But in the case
of Njatadi it was not so. On September 24th , after 30 years, the
group of youngsters who made that film possible got together to
refresh their memories.
They paid homage to the stalwarts who departed during this long
interregnum: director Gopi, Murali, Korapath, producer-organiser Dr KN
Sreenivasan etc.. In that sense, Njatadi is more than just a film.
Though the film in its physical form is irretrievable, the spirit
behind it survives.

A Still from Njatadi

To mark the occasion, a book and a video documentary on the film was
also released. The book – Njatadi Smaranakal - edited by K Bhaskaran
contains personal memoirs of those who took part in the making of the
film. Apart from such reminiscences, the 20-minutes video documentary,
pieces together the narrative of the film through poignant stills from
it. The book and the documentary, unique in their mission, are earnest
attempts at recapturing a lost film, and in the process, memories,
incidents and experiences that such an experiment involved in the late
70’s. What transpires through these personal flashbacks, are the sheer
joy of doing something new, the exhilaration of collective, selfless
action and also its attendant frustrations.

As one of the main organizers and the scenarist of the film, TK
Kochunarayanan recalls the period: “All over the world, 1970’s mark
radical changes in political thinking. Naturally it had its resonance
in India and Keralam too. There were fresh sprouts of an ideology that
was committed to providing the villages a new life and vigour. In
Keralam, it had the resonances of a rural wake up song and was the
indigenous version of an ideology that inspired the youth and rattled
the old. Caught in its tune and rhythm were some young minds, who were
ready to take up that arduous journey to achieve lasting peace.”
According to him, this was the background that made ‘Njatadi’

Any act of remembering is also an act of defiance against forgetting.
By keeping memories alive, we make vital links not only with the past,
but also to the future. Such remembrance is sure to inspire the
njatadis in the present too.



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