T. int.: Report to Mother. F.: Venu. M.: Beena Paul. Mus.: Sunitha. Int.: Joy Mathew (Purushan), Kunhulakshmi Amma (la madre di Purushan), Harinarayan (Hari), Maji Venkitesh (Paru), Nilambur Balan, Itingal Narayani, Nazim, Ramachandran Mokeri, Kallai Balan, Thomas, Venu C. Menon. Prod.: Odessa Movies. Bn.
In Malayalam cinema, the growth of film cooperatives, notably Chitralekha in Kerala, led to a new generation of filmmakers who opted for low budgets and location shooting. Amma Ariyan is situated among the second wave of Malayalam cinema and is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished and complex political films to have come out of Parallel Cinema. The story of Amma Ariyan is set against the backdrop of Kerala, in which the legacy of the Naxalite movement looms large, and unfolds at a time when the cost of political extremism was being reassessed by the youth from a critical perspective. One such youth is Purushan (Joy Mathew), a bearded, introspective cipher. Purushan is on his way to Delhi when he sees the dead body of Hari, a tabla player and Naxalite activist. Thus begins Purushan’s journey to inform Hari’s mother of her son’s death. The loose narrative is structured as a series of reports delivered from the perspective of characters that Purushan encounters along his journey.
Director John Abraham only made four films before he died in 1987. Hailing from a middle-class orthodox family, Abraham started watching films at the age of 15. Joining the Pune Film Institute in 1965, Abraham would later assist Mani Kaul on Uski Roti (1969), a seminal experience. Perhaps Abraham’s major achievement was not his films but the Odessa Movies collective, which he helped to form in 1984 as a way of working in parallel to the mainstream. In fact, the budget for Amma Ariyan was raised through the 16mm films that Odessa distributed, collecting ten rupees a time from viewers. The international influences on the film, expressly Third Cinema, are markedly evident in the astounding handheld, reportage camerawork that recalls Kalatozov’s Soy Cuba (I’m Cuba, 1964). Ultimately, Amma Ariyan comes together as an unofficial historical record of resistance, injustice and dissent, while the potent Jungian symbolism of the mother provides a link to Ritwik Ghatak’s iconoclastic work.