My Year of Prakash Raj

Some people spend a year
cooking Julia Child's recipes, or following all of the rules in the Bible, or reading books by people who spent a year doing something. My quest is to watch the 200-some films of South Indian character-actor-extraordinaire, Prakash Raj. (It'll probably take more than a year... and I'll post about some Prakash-less films here as well.)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Tiny Snake steals the show in Anandabhadram

The Malayalam entry for the Nag Panchami Film Fessstival is Anandabradram (2005, directed by Santosh Sivan, based on the novel by Sunil Parameswaran.) For a more thoughtful questions about Malayalam snake films, check out Katherine at totallyfilmi's post on a song from Sarpakkadu.
Here's a synopsis pulled from the film's website:

The story begins with Anandan, played by Prithviraj, who makes a maiden trip to his native village, Sivapuram. His purpose? To make good his promise to his recently deceased mother that he would dissolve her ashes in a river near Manthrikapura, a mystical garden, and light a lamp in Sivakavu, a strange and dark place in Sivapuram. Interestingly, Anandan, when he was young, had heard so many bedtime stories from his mother about the people and the places in Sivapuram. However, as soon as he lands in Sivapuram, Anandan finds out that what he heard and what he sees are two different things. To start with, the villagers warn him not to light the lamp in the forbidden Sivakavu. Since Anandan doesn't believe in anything supernatural he enters Sivakavu but only to find out that his life would never be the same again. Is there really anything supernatural happening to Anandan? If yes, then what is really happening and who's doing it? Is it Bhadra, his uncle's daughter and his lover? Or is it the enigmatic Digambaran, a mysterious person? Or is it Bama, Digambaran's lover? Or is it Chemban, her blind brother?

Are there real Yakshis, ghosts, in Sivakavu? Is it possible to transmigrate to another's body? Will Anandan succeed in dissolving his mother's ashes? Come and experience it all and unravel the mysteries behind the story. Find out about Sivakavu and the enigmatic Digambaran in a stunning film that would transport you to the mystical world of Sivapuram and leave you mesmerized by the magic of Santosh Sivan's visual poetry.

Yes, the film has Prithviraj, and Riya Sen, and a crazy sorcerer, and beautiful Santosh Sivan visuals, but the star of the film was the tiny serpent, Kunjootan.
The film starts in Anandan's childhood, as his mother tells him the story of the evil sorcerer who seeks to steal the nagamanikyam (a jewel on a serpent's head), which is protected by a tiny cobra.
(The audio is a bit off in this video, so you can also watch this scene without subtitles here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deDXbpnnMiU&feature=related.)

We next see Kunjootan when Anandan and Bhadra go exploring in the magical cave.

Prithvi is also thinking "A tiny cobra, how cuuuute!"
After lots of machinations by the evil sorcerer, hyper-rational Anandan comes to appreciate the power of the supernatural, and there is an epic showdown fight in the cave. Anandan is pretty thoroughly trounced by the sorcerer, until Kunjootan pops his head up, and give Anandan the power/will to defeat the sorcerer.
You can tell from his expression that Kunjootan is thrilled to have the nagamanikyam back in his care.

And we wrap things up with Anandan and Bhadra lighting the lamps in Sivakuvu.
Watching all of these snake films is making me more and more curious/obsessed with the snake handling. Did they actually find a tiny, juvenile cobra? Is this just excellent scaling cinematography with a regular-sized snake? (The way that they made the hobbits in the Lord of the Rings movies look small compared to Gandalf.) In his miniaturized form, Kunjootan was less menacing and more adorable than other film snakes. 

If I ever meet Santosh Sivan, I'm afraid I will only pester him with these questions. That, and I'll ask him to explain his thing for waterfalls.


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