Releasing on March 10, ‘Pada’ is led by some of the best acting talents in Malayalam

Releasing on March 10, ‘Pada’ is led by some of the best acting talents in Malayalam

On October 4, 1996, the then Palakkad Collector was held hostage in his office for nearly ten hours by a group of men who called themselves ‘Ayyankali Pada’. The incident led to inquiries and manhunts and its repercussions are still discussed in official circles and among activists fighting for justice for tribal communities in Kerala.

“In 1996, the Kerala Government had amended the Adivasi (Aboriginals) Land Act. The group of radicals felt that the amendment had to be challenged, as it violates the rights of the tribals on their land.. Their methods were not in keeping with the laws of the land, but the fact remains that tribals still get a raw deal from the establishment,” says Kamal KM.

Struggle for land

This real-life incident has inspired Kamal’s Pada, set to be released on March 10. Returning to helm a film after 2012, the director of the critically acclaimed ID, says the struggle of tribals to regain their land and forest continues even today, which is why the film is relevant. Kamal, who was working as an academic in KR Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts, was determined to come back to cinema with a big-budget mainstream film.

“2022 marks the 25th year of that ‘kidnap’ attempt to draw public attention to the plight of the tribals,” he says. Kamal views the police action against the tribals at Muthanga as a play of power against a helpless population. He adds: “Murderers of Madhu, a tribal who was lynched, have still not been punished. The tribal communities in India are still fighting for their rights over the forests and their land.”

Extensive research

Prior to scripting the film, Kamal met and interviewed at length each of the persons involved in the kidnapping and subsequent rescue of the Collector. The then Chief Secretary had led the operation to free the collector, avoid blooshed and bring the culprits to justice. The operation to flush them out was led by an IPS officer on special assignment who became the Director General of Police in Kerala.

Film director Kamal KM behind the camera on the set of ‘Pada ‘

Film director Kamal KM behind the camera on the set of ‘Pada ‘
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Kamal, a postgraduate student of journalism in 1996, says Pada is an attempt to understand the aftermath of that event in October. He met the activists involved in the incident to understand what made them undertake that radical act and what were their thoughts on it today.

Kamal travelled to Hyderabad to meet the senior bureaucrat who still remembers that day with a shudder. “His wife recited the message she got from the kidnappers who told her that her husband would be finished off if their demands were not met. I met each of those involved in the kidnapping to learn what had happened to them,” says the director.

For instance, the Collector and his wife decided to leave Kerala after the kidnapping. “They told me how even the establishment did not completely understand the trauma they had to go through and, later, there were allegations that the Collector had colluded with the captors to save his life!”

Pegged on the incident, Pada examines the equation of power and sensitivity towards the less privileged.

Joju George, Vinayakan, Kunchacko Boban and Dileesh Pothan in a still from ‘Pada’, directed by Kamal KM

Joju George, Vinayakan, Kunchacko Boban and Dileesh Pothan in a still from ‘Pada’, directed by Kamal KM
| Photo Credit: Nirmal KF

With a sterling cast including some of the best actors in Malayalam cinema, such as Kunchacko Bobban, Indrans, Salim Kumar, Dileesh Pothan, Joju George, Vinayakan, Prakash Raj, Karamana Sudheer, Kani Kusruthi and Unnimaya Prasad, the film raises several questions about government and governance.

The film questions the efficacy of the establishment in finding a real-time solution to the Adivasis’ struggle for their land. “It is not about that issue alone, but also about the sensitivity of those in power and how they use it. After all, bureaucrats are known as government servants.”

Shot in and around Thrissur and Palakkad from July 2019 to December 2021, the film has over 1,500 junior artists. The shooting was completed in 50 days over four schedules.

A still from ‘Pada’, directed by Kamal KM, which is based on a real-life incident

A still from ‘Pada’, directed by Kamal KM, which is based on a real-life incident
| Photo Credit: Nirmal KF

“Each character has significance. The former DGP wanted to know whose story was being told through the film. ‘I replied that it was the story of everyone, of each of us!”’

On the anvil for Kamal is a “small film in terms of cast and budget”. It is about a solitary man and his reaction when an act of his thrusts him into the limelight. Titled Ekaaki‘ the film too is based on a real-life story. Explains Kamal: “It is to recuperate from a big film like Pada. Set in Kannur, the film’s lead character will be encted by Joju. Shoot will begin in March-April and I hope to complete it within 30 days.”

As with Pada, Kamal met the person who inspired the film. In September, he hopes to begin a new film 11 KV, based on several contemporary events.



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