In the dark times, will there also be singing? Yes, there will also be singing, about the dark times.
Raven, the directorial debut of theatre person and wannabe filmmaker Adarsh Kumar Aniyal, is a tight slap on the face of naysayers, the ones who never admit that casteism, oppression and racism exist.
It’s these lines of German poet Bertolt Brecht that might immediately hit you when the 4.17 minutes of Raven ends. As the bluish screen fades and end credits roll, moments of silence might follow — of surprise, numbness, goosebumps and realisation. Raven, the directorial debut of theatre person and wannabe filmmaker Adarsh Kumar Aniyal, is a tight slap on the face of naysayers, the ones who never admit that casteism, oppression and racism exist.
“Malayalis feel that casteism is something that happens in other parts of the country and definitely not in Kerala,” says Adarsh, who is glad about the reception to his work of protest featuring his father Ambujakshan, a folklore artist.
The figurative music video begins with a grey-haired Ambujakshan, sporting white, repeatedly saying My son is missing, first in anguish and second, staring into the camera, and the audience’s heart would skip a beat. Deeper than the gaze pierce his words that follow – The black, lean guy with long, red-coloured hair. Yes, that’s my son and he is missing.
The narration blends into the music as the old man talks more, in brief, power-packed statements and sharp queries. The man explains how his son grew up facing casteist slurs and body-shaming, how he was told that bright-coloured dress didn’t suit him, how he was ridiculed for choosing to wear black and grow and colour his hair red, how he was taunted for being benefited from reservation system and how he was always accused of cheating or theft if he scored well or wore a good dress. At one point, the man says, I too asked him if this red hair suits us? Then he asked me, Who decided what suits us and what not?
One day, his son goes missing, framed in a crime. The dad knows that the search is futile because It’s my son who is missing and not a cow! He then goes for a makeover, sporting black dress, long hair and making a blunt political statement, “I am going to wear black, grow my hair long and colour it. Let it annoy them. For me, it’s just @$^%# .” And he wears a sunglass as blue powder explodes.
For Vypin native Adarsh, who has been active in directing children’s plays, Raven is an attempt to unearth Kerala’s the underlying casteism Malayalis have been denying all along. “In Kerala, it’s not very obvious, but casteism runs very deep and strong. People are not aware that their ‘jokes’ are not actually funny. Many believe that bias in the name of caste, creed and religion is not happening in Kerala, where people live in harmony. But that’s not true. All minorities – Dalits, Dalit Hindus, Muslims, Dalit Christians — face these jokes that refer to their lifestyle, skin colour and lineage,” he points out.
Raven, refers to both the black crow and the demon king Ravana. “My grandfather was a folk artist and for Onakkali, he and artistes from Vypin used to play the part of Ravan, while those from Thrissur played the Rama. Naturally, I took a liking to Ravana,” he says. The song composed by Bibin Ashok is brought out by Bodhi Silent Scape. Nideesh Veka and Rizal Jainy are the cinematographer and editor respectively.
Though the idea of the video has been in his thoughts, Adarsh admits that he hasn’t faced casteism much as he has been trying to fit into the ‘good boy’ trap. “When I realised that I had to be me, I started growing my hair and coloured it red. My father too grew his beard. It was from the responses that I understood that how racist people are.” However, Ambujakshan, an orator and an active supporter of Dalit politics, wasn’t surprised like his son. “He has had several experiences,” says Adarsh, whose greatest inspiration is director Pa. Ranjith, known for his political films that make hard-hitting anti-caste statements. “It’s my wish to show him my work,” he adds.
Adarsh knows that just one video can’t bring about a change. “There’s been Muhsin Parari’s Native Bapa which made a powerful statement. We have to keep saying, keep reminding people about the oppression they are part of; shouldn’t let them forget,” he winds up....