(Tamil Heritage Trust)
Kelai Daupadai -- A Documentary Film
at 5.30pm on Saturday, October 6th, 2012
at Vinobha Hall, Thakkar Bapa Vidyalaya, T Nagar.
About the documentary
Two hundred years of colonial “modernity” has produced all kinds of divisions in Indian society. Political authority at every level is now centralized and flows top-down; and our economy is increasingly driven by the needs and demands of those who inhabit our cities. Perhaps the deepest cleavage in our collective existence is social and cultural, marked by the unbridgeable chasm between our rural and urban populations. In our cities, the space for culture and community has been taken over by faceless institutions and markets. Even amidst a steady and continuous flow of migrants from our villages to our cities, our familiarity with, and interest in, the people of our villages and their cultural practices is fast receding. Where our media and institutions do cast their marginal, and marginalizing, attention on rural culture, it reaches us in a form that is specially tailored for our remote, almost colonial, gaze; and film-making, inexorably urban owing to its industrial and technological nature, does a particularly bad job of engaging with village life and culture.
“Kelai Draupadhai”, made by filmmaker Sashikant Ananthachari, is a path-breaking effort that documents, as well as celebrates, a culturally significant event which is an annual feature in several hundred villages in northern Tamilnadu. It covers twenty days of the Mahabharatham recital and koothu performed in connectin with the annual thiruvizha, or festival, at the local Draupadhai Amman temple at Eechur near Senji town, 150km south-west of Chennai. While the entire story of Mahabharatam is recited over 20 days, based on the 14th century rendering of the epic by Tamil Vaishnavite saint Srivilliputhurar, the koothu performance begins, synchronous with the recital, at the pivotal event of Duryodhana’s invitation to the Pandavas to his kingdom, which starts a chain of events eventually leading the apocalyptic war in Kurukshetra. Draupadhai Amman, who is ritually invoked, is the prime audience for the recital and koothu. She is also the central figure in the koothu, which enacts her disrobing in the court of the Kauravas and the fulfillment of her vow to avenge this insult at the battlefield in Kurukshetra.
In “Kelai Draupadhai”, the community is the chief and only protagonist. The people initiate the festival, organize and perform the many events, articulate the legends underlying the festival’s attendant rituals, engage with the theatre of the koothu, not only as involved spectators (who already know the story) but also as participants and collaborators, realizing the settings for many of the dramatic events of the koothu, till the borders between the performance and reality, actors and audience, story and life, are totally blurred, and they enjoy the triumph of good over evil, knowing that the battle shall recur as surely as the triumph. In staging the koothu in this traditional way, the way of their forefathers, and incorporating the memories of their own past into it, the community honours the proud legacy of their stories and beliefs, language and text, costumes and drama, music and song, landscape and crafts, and celebrates their very existence as a community – cohesive, morally aware and hopeful of the future. ‘Kelai Draupadhai’ is a record of all this and more, as well as a dazzling glimpse into a way of life we have lost, one that we must recover and honour once again.
- N Kalyan Raman, Writer and Translator, Chennai
About the filmmaker and his crew
Sashikanth Ananthachari [Producer, Director, Cinematographer, Researcher]
After completing my course in cinema from FTII, Pune, I worked as a cinematographer In Kolkata shooting many award winning features and documentaries. Important works would be 'Kaal Abhirati' 1991, Swarna Kamal for the best experimental Feature film, [Director Amitabh Chakraborthy], 'Yugant', 1995, Best Bengali feature film, Director Aparna Sen. I shifted back to my home town Chennai and have been working as an independent documentary producer director. Important works would be 'Veli' [The Open], a documentary on the river Kaveri. Kelai Draupadai is part of a trilogy of films which I am working on right now. Kelai [Listen Draupadi] is about the Mahabharata festival itself and I completed it last year, Ninaivin Nagaram [City of the Mind] is in the final stages of post production and is about the history of this tradition which dates back to the 7th century Pallava period, and the 3rd 'Dhvani' is a film about the aesthetics of this tradition which I am currently shooting. Kelai has been screened at numerous festivals both in India and abroad. It was first screened in Pardubice, Czech Republic. It was recently screened at the Moscow Ethnographic Film festival on 28th September 2012. Kelai Draupadai is also part of the course studies for students studying culture both in some Indian universities and overseas.
Sashikanth +91 9600113095
N Raja and Santhana Nambi, the sound recordists, have worked in numerous documentaries as sound recordists. They specialise in feature films which would like to use location sound as the final sound track and have an impressive body of work, main stream to show case their work. This they said was their toughest project and first non main stream work.
Raja +91 9003021154; Santhananambi +91 9003023258
Ajit Eapen, Editor worked with PC Sriram’s production house in Chennai where he has edited numerous documentaries and ad films for the company. Last year he has shifted to Mumbai where he is currently the chief editor Star TV.
Ajit email email@example.com, tel +91 9930107954
A. Annamalai: Gandhi Study Centre - firstname.lastname@example.org; 94441-83198
Badri Seshadri: Kizhakku-p-padippakam - email@example.com; 98840-66566
S. Kannan: Bank of Baroda - 2498 5836
S. Swaminathan - firstname.lastname@example.org; 2467 1501
R. Gopu, email@example.com, 98417-24641
T. Sivasubramanian, firstname.lastname@example.org, 98842-94494