Film Review: Thettippoo Samithi (2023): Reconfiguration of creative expression
'The story of this half-hour film is set in a contemporary village in Kerala. The protagonist of the film is a librarian, played by Jayachandran Thonnackal, and the film begins with him heading towards his workplace', writes Dipankar Sarkar
Dipankar Sarkar, an Indian film critic and an alumnus of FTII, Pune, writes that though the plot of Thettippoo Samithi is set in a rural town in Kerala, its characters, philosophy, and structure are such that they will resonate with the rational sensibilities of citizens around the world.
It is uncommon to come across a film in which the filmmaker chooses to use the craft of filmmaking as a medium of imaginative consideration to express their political thesis. Arun Nath Kailas' Malayalam short film Thettippoo Samithi (The Bloom Watchers, 2023) is a reaction to a society that is becoming more and more intolerant of the idea of pluralistic accord. In an ethereal and stimulating cinematic style, he employs film as an art form that critically observes such subjective proclivities of individuals. The narrative strategy of the film uses an organic and painterly approach, making creative juxtapositions of images and concepts rather than following conventional plot-driven storytelling.
The story of this half-hour film is set in a contemporary village in Kerala. The protagonist of the film is a librarian, played by Jayachandran Thonnackal, and the film begins with him heading towards his workplace. But the individuals that he meets there exchange a sour and suspicious vibe with him. Compelled by his regular habit, he prefers to take a nap post-lunch. He soon hears noise being made by people within the premises of the library and discovers that a group of people has gathered in one of the rooms. He reaches out to them with the intention of figuring out what the group wants but eventually falls for their ruse. The gang of people starts acting in ways that resemble the librarian. The more he attempts to escape the situation, he gets more and more mired in the chaos. He goes back to his house to find comfort, but the crowd follows him there as well.
Though the plot of Thettippoo Samithi is set in a rural town in Kerala, its characters, philosophy, and structure are such that they will resonate with the rational sensibilities of citizens around the world. The burning topic of whether a society founded on the principle of "universal brotherhood" genuinely appreciates the value of diversity and cultural fusion From the perspective of socio-political beliefs, it further demonstrates how absolute supremacy aids in the formation of a rigid hierarchy. This authority, when continually exercised, results in a kind of delusion of reality that gives it an aura of probity. As a result, the legitimacy of authoritarianism gets sanctioned. Despite being excessively reductive, this kind of scrutiny gives the narrative inventive figuration and modern abstraction. The lush green surroundings of the village, accompanied by the innovative use of graphics and colour hues, allow the film to create a mysterious and hypnotic aura. By emphasising the distinctive sounds of several natural elements—the breathing of tired humans, the echo of dialogue, and the eeriness of the background score—the director completely hijacks the viewer's senses and enhances the poetic relevance of the film. It's a strange universe where imaginative components dominate the established norms of the society we live in.
Thettippoo Samithi is a formal work of fiction in which the length could have been reduced to make it tighter and stimulating. However, this is a minor flaw in what is otherwise an exercise in audio-visual creation meant to be absorbed by surrendering one's faculties to the vision of the filmmaker.
Image: Film still