Original version with subtitles
“He has the sun hanging from the lobe of one ear / adorning the eyes of a thousand cats / through woods and mountains he challenges the sharp teeth of the monsoons / he comes at night while we sleep / solemn, frightening and babbling.” Invoked by children’s singsong, Kumatty enters the scene with the sound of clinking bells, leaving behind a blazing sunset piercing through the clouds. A sly sorcerer leaping from the pages of an Italo Calvino’s fable, Kumatty is an old pied piper who returns to the same village every spring, attracting children with songs and dances in order to turn them into animals. He is at one with the elements, with the stretch of water facing the temple, with the bark of the sacred Banyan that becomes its home, with the mists, the winds and skies of Malabar, where the film was shot. Aravindan, who was born in the Kerala region, plunges his camera in the stream underwater, brushes against the tiniest dew drops, and the children’s cheeks, alternating magical realism and poetic pantheism. In the village myth and reality sleep under the same roof. So, is Kummatty real or imagined? Aravindan’s answer is provided by a sequence worthy of Méliès: through a tight edit and stop-motion tricks: “Oodi Oodi Kali Aananda Kuttikalo Intha Thakrutha Mullai.” The bogeyman turns children into a dog, a mule, a cow, a turkey, an elephant, a monkey… Illusion, reality, legend, nature. Cinema is all.
Praised by Imamura and a lover of Tarkovsky, a painter, cartoonist and musician, Aravindan was a self-taught filmmaker who experimented a great deal with genres, styles and film grammar throughout his career. Thirty years after his death, an editorial in the “Times of India” remembered him as an iconoclast who changed the trajectory of Malayalam cinema: “However, he is like one of his most famous characters, Esthappan, about whom everyone talks and whom no one has seen: his masterpieces are disappearing like they never existed.”
Cast and Credits
T. int.: The Boogeyman. Scen.: Govindan Aravindan, Kavalam Narayana Panicker. F.: Shaji N. Karun. M.: A. Rameshan. Mus.: M.G. Kavalam Narayana Panicker (canzoni), M.G. Radhakrishnan, Govindan Aravindan. Int.: Ramunni (Kummatty), Master Ashokan, Vilasini Reema, Kothara Gopalkrishnan, Sivasankaran Divakaran, Vakkil, Mothassi, Shankar. Prod.: K. Ravindranathan Nair per General Pictures Corporation. Col.
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