The moving storyline of ‘Headmaster’ is the strength of the film, which is based on Karur Neelakanda Pillai’s classic short story ‘Pothichoru’

The moving storyline of ‘Headmaster’ is the strength of the film, which is based on Karur Neelakanda Pillai’s classic short story ‘Pothichoru’

Distinguished Malayalam writer Karur Neelakanda Pillai’s classic short story ‘Pothichoru’ is about a principled teacher who struggles to make ends meet. Award-winning film director Rajiv Nath’s feature film Headmaster is based on that story, set during a period when hunger stalked homes in Kerala and consumerism was still an unknown phenomenon in the State. It was also a time when teachers were underpaid, and only their dedication made them stick to their vocation. The film’s theme assumes significance in today’s world when teaching and the student-teacher relationship have seen several changes over the years.

Film director Rajiv Nath

Film director Rajiv Nath

During a conversation, the director, who who makes his comeback to cinema after overcoming a serious illness, had said that the story had been on his mind for more than 20 years. When he found a producer, Rajiv put everything aside to make the film.

However, making a feature film based on a short story is not easy and, as a result, the narrative drags in places. Some of the scenes could have been shorter, or better still avoided, and a little more attention to detail could have enhanced the feel of the poignant story.

Scripted by KB Venu and the director, the dialogues have the flavour of the soil in which the story unfolds. Shot in and around Thiruvananthapuram, Praveen Panikkar has captured the lush greenery of a rustic background and the old-world feel of a classroom of yore.

The teacher with a large family to look after has to survive on his paltry salary and often satiates his hunger by drinking water. Driven by hunger, the teacher steals the lunch of a student. But then, overcome by guilt, the loving father and devoted teacher decides to punish himself for his mistake. Thampy Antony plays the lead character of the Headmaster and, most of the time, he is at home in the role. The classroom scenes are well-etched and Thampy is able to strike a chord with viewers as the hapless father and dedicated teacher.

The story unfolds when the son (enacted by Baby Antony) visits his village in the company of his daughter. He recalls the past as he tells his daughter about his past.

Jagadish, Manju Pillai, Madhupal, Shankar Ramakrishnan, Prem Kumar, and Devi Nair are some of the other actors in the film. Devi, daughter of yesteryear actor Jalaja, has an interesting role. However, not everyone in the cast is able to step into the skin of the characters and that disturbs the narrative, making their characters look artificial. Jagadish is his loud self, while Babu Antony seems unable to go beyond his usual set of expressions. Manju Pillai, as the long-suffering wife of the teacher, brings across the pathos of the character and so does veteran Sethu Lakshmi.

Produced by Sreelal Devraj under the banner of Channel Five, the film’s strength is the story. Carnatic vocalist and playback singer Kavalam Srikumar makes his debut as a film music composer here with a couple of soulful songs.

Headmaster is currently running in theatres

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By Dipak

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