Thakazhi’s iconic short story ‘Vellapokkathil’ recreated at Biennale

Kochi, Feb 03:The painand hopelessness of isolationas conveyedbycelebrated writer ThakazhiSivashankaraPillai in his short story Vellapokkathil(In the Flood) has been given format the ongoing third edition of the Kochi-MuzirisBiennale.

ChannelingThakazhi’srich literary imageryinto an arresting ‘short story installation’ that examines questions of caste identity, B. Ramabhadran, a student of K.R. Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts in Kottayam, has produced a sculpture of a dog’s wait for its master during a flood and its eventual death.

Acclaimed filmmaker Jayarajpresented the installation at an inaugural function today in the Pavilion in Cabral Yard, where the work has been housed as part of ‘Undiplomatic Tales’ – the ongoing ‘Artist’s Cinema’ package curated by Marathi filmmaker UmeshKulkarni.

Lauding Ramabhadran’s work, Jayaraj – who directed a short film based on the widely-read story – said it was a challenging experience to recreate the masterwork in another format.

“As a creative work, Vellapokkathilis vast both in content and depth. The way Thakazhidepicts nature and the universal pain of separation and sketches the relationship between the Dalit character Chenan and his dog are elements that demand to be conceptualisedinto another medium,” observed Jayaraj, who rememberedhaving to build a set on a lake to create the flood effect for his 2008 movie.

The installation, which takes its title from the book, featuresthe sculpture of a black dog sited on a rooftop and incorporates looped sound recordings of a dog’s howls and yelpsalongside – Thakazhi notes them as being sometimes akin to – human groaning and sobbing,all set against the lashing of rain and gurgling of floodwater.

“Thakazhi, one of the most celebrated writers from Kerala whose works have been translated into many languages,was someone who perfectly captured naturethrough his words,” said the Ottaal director,who also recounted some fond memories ofthe litterateur.

According to Ramabhadran, this was the first time a Malayalam short story had been adapted into sound and sculpture. “It was Chenan’sdire situation that forced him to leave the dog, though he was pained to do so. I have tried to reflect on whether hisdesperate condition – and those of Dalits like him – has really changed much even now, so many years after the story was written. This was the burning question that prompted me to recreate Vellapokkathil,”said Ramabhadran, who has directed documentaries and short films.

The installation, which will be exhibited at the Pavilion till Sunday (February 5), will share the stage with screenings of short films by students from film institutes around the country.



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