‘Thuramukham’ is the story of Mattancherry, says Rajeev Ravi


The Malayalam multi-starrer with Nivin Pauly in the lead focuses on the early history of the Kochi port. Thuramukham releases on June 10

The Malayalam multi-starrer with Nivin Pauly in the lead focuses on the early history of the Kochi port. Thuramukham releases on June 10

“For me, filmmaking is a kind of documentation,” says cinematographer-director Rajeev Ravi, whose directorial oeuvre includes critically-acclaimed films such as Kammatti Paadam, Njan Steve Lopez and Annayum Rasoolum.

Over the phone, while travelling to the sets in Mumbai early in the morning, he elaborates: “I am not unduly worried about the box office. Success and money will come and go. I want to document forgotten incidents and events in the recent past that are being erased from our collective memory. At the same time, one should also document contemporary events.”

Rajeev’s directorial films are reaching theatres after six years. Kuttavum Shikshayum, starring Asif Ali in the lead, released on May 27.

His Thuramukham, a multi-starrer, which has been waiting in the wings for two years, is releasing on June 10. Meanwhile, Rajeev is busy filming in Bollywood, working with some of the front rankers of the Hindi film industry.

For the workers

Talking about Thuramukham, he says it is set on a broad canvas and narrates the story of the Kochi port; it spans the period from the 1930s to the 1950s, when a protest at the port on September 15, 1953 was brutally put down by the authorities and three workers were killed in firing.

“Migrant labourers from different backgrounds, many fleeing from the repercussions of the Moplah rebellion in Malabar (1921-22) and some from places like Kollam have made Mattancherry their home. The history of Kochi and Mattacherry is an interesting one,” says Rajeev.

A strike was organised by the undivided Communist Party in 1953, which formed a union at the port for the first time. Chithira Tirunal Balarama Varma, the last king of erstwhile Travancore, was the main investor in the port. The movie begins before work began on the port and ends with the strike. “A crude way of selecting casual workers for the day, known as the Chappa system, existed then, wherein a metal token was thrown to the workers and those who managed to get one was allowed to work. In the early stages of the port, the Chappa system was controlled by the Moopans and then by unions until the protest was organised against the arbitrary selection of workers. Thuramukham covers that period,” says Rajeev.

Nivin Pauly in Thuramukham, directed by Rajeev Ravi

Nivin Pauly in Thuramukham, directed by Rajeev Ravi
| Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Although the protests happened in nearby Mattancherry, not many in Kochi were aware of the incident, what led to it and its aftermath. “In spite of having lived in Kochi, I had never heard of the protest and the firing. The only time I had seen it mentioned was in auteur John Abraham’s Amma Ariyan, wherein a scene shows the characters walking by the bullet-scarred walls and they talk about the firing there,” explains Rajeev.

Later, he heard about a play, Thuramukham written by KM Chidambaran, his friend’s father. Hailing from Palluruthy in Kochi, Chidambaran knew people who had participated in the protests and had listened to first-hand accounts of it.

Remember 1953

In 2018, the play was staged in Kochi in association with Uru Art Habour and Rajeev recalls how pleasantly surprised he was to see the response to the play. Mattancherry residents welcomed visitors to the play. “They were proud of their memories. That memory is what triggered this movie. I wanted to show that Mattancherry is a place with beautiful memories,” says Rajeev.

With a script by Gopan Chidambaran, the film’s cast includes Nivin Pauly, Indrajith, Joju George, Nimisha Sajayan, Poornima Indrajith, Manikandan R Achari, Sudev Nair, Arjun Ashokan and Darshana Rajendran among others.

His casting depends on the characters in his films. Rajeev asserts that his kind of films would not have been made without the support of a youth brigade in Malayalam cinema who enjoy working outside their comfort zone.

Nivin Pauly in Thuramukham, directed by Rajeev Ravi

Nivin Pauly in Thuramukham, directed by Rajeev Ravi
| Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Nivin, who headlines Thuramukham, is a “powerful actor whose potential has not been tapped by directors”. Actors like Dulquer, Fahadh and Asif are willing to play characters outside the mainstream narratives, says Rajeev.

“If I feel that an actor is suitable for a role, I do not have a problem with him being a star.”

Calling Thuramukham a cautionary tale, he says that it tells us that history repeats itself and that people can be pushed and cornered only to an extent before they react. “ Thuramukham is dedicated to the fallen in numerous protests across the world,” he says.

Reality bytes are the strength of Rajeev’s films. Kuttavum Shikshayum, Rajeev’s previous film, was also based on a real incident. According to him, the film is basically a kind of reportage. A theft in a temple is investigated by a team of officers who have to travel to another state to track the thieves. “What I want to convey in the movie is not in your face. It is subtle and one has to read between the lines and be observant to notice what is happening,” says Rajeev.

He says that though he loves to direct, he wants to work on his own ideas and develop those into scripts. “I can’t direct a script written by someone to explore their ideas.”



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