Friday, October 24, 2014

A Man Of Many Parts

The multi-faceted KL Sreekrishna Dass has brought out a moving short film, 'The Miracle'. He is also a novelist, lyricist, script-writer and director. Dass spent many years in the senior echelons of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry

By Shevlin Sebastian

Photo by Manu R. Mavelil

Many years ago, KL Sreekrishna Dass read an article about a true incident in America. A family has two children. The girl is six years old, while the boy is a two-year-old. The boy suffers from a brain tumour. One night the parents are talking to each other. “We have gone to so many hospitals,” says the father. “We met so many doctors and given so many medicines. And now, only a miracle can save him.”

This conversation is overheard by the daughter. She mistakes the word, 'miracle', as the name of a medicine. So she takes her pocket money and, without informing her parents, she goes to a nearby medical shop and asks for a medicine called 'miracle' to treat her brother. The chemist says that there is no such medicine. A man is standing there. She says, “Uncle, do you have a 'miracle' with you?”

He says, “I don't have it. But let me come to your house and see your younger brother.”

Then she takes him to the house. He is the topmost neurosurgeon in America, who has come to a nearby hospital to attend to some complicated cases. He examines the child, and asks the parents to bring him to the hospital where he is working.

The child is operated upon and is saved. The doctor does not take any money. But the girl gives her pocket money and says, “Uncle, at last, we got the miracle.”

Dass has set this incident in a Thiruvananthapuram setting in his film called 'The Miracle' (9 min 57 secs). It is a film that is bound to move you, because of its simplicity and emotional sincerity. There are two settings: the house and the medicine shop. The people who acted in it are seasoned stage actors like Dr. Ambi, Arun Nayar and Aswathy Attingal. The girl, played by Meri Ann DS, in a debut performance, is a revelation because of her utter naturalness in front of the camera.

When the film was screened at Thiruvananthapuram recently, several notables expressed their appreciation. “'The Miracle' is a beautiful film which will inspire children and elders alike to think positively in the most adverse of situations, when people tend to lose hope,” says director Adoor Gopalakrishnan. 

Director Shaji N Karun says, “Only very few creations can bring out such values that touch our insights.” Director TV Chandran says, “It is a moving film that brings out the innocence of childhood. The performance of the child protagonist and the doctor are worth mentioning.”

In a short film competition conducted by a Malayalam television channel, out of 140 films, 'The Miracle' is one, among the top 10, which will be screened soon.

Dass, the younger brother of the acclaimed writer, KL Mohana Varma, is a creative person in his own right. He has written dramas, short stories, novels, a biography, and a collection of essays and songs in Malayalam. He has also written lyrics for films, Doordarshan, Akashvani and devotional CDs.

One devotional CD, on Lord Guruvayoorappan, sung by KJ Yesudas, with music by Perumbavoor G. Ravindranath, is still popular 25 years after its release.

A script-wrtiter for many telefilms, Dass has scripted and directed a 26-episode documentary serial on prominent social, cultural, religious and political leaders like Thunchath Ezhuthachchan, Kunchan Nambiar, Sreenarayana Guru, Raja Ravi Varma, and EMS Namboodiripad.

Apart from all this, Dass had been a senior functionary in the Information and Broadcasting Ministry for more than three decades and retired as Director (Public Relations), Press Information Bureau, at Thiruvananthapuram.

But perhaps his most interesting job was as head of the Regional Office of the Central Board of Film Certification (Censor Board) of Kerala, based at Thiruvananthapuram. “I would watch the films along with a committee,” says Dass. “Then we would issue the certificate. Sometimes, when we suggested cuts and deletions, usually because of too much sex or violence against human beings or animals, the directors and producers would get angry. But they did not take it personally. They knew it was the decision of the committee.”

After cuts were made, the group would view the film again, to see whether the deletions have been done. All cuts were based on clear-cut guidelines highlighted in The Cinematograph Act of 1952.

Das and the committee would watch 300 to 400 films a year, in Malayalam, English and other languages. He smiles and says, “Watching films as part of my work was a very pleasant experience.”

Dass's future plans include making short films and writing more books. And he continues to get inspiration from his brother. “Even though our styles are different, the encouragement given to me by KL Mohana Varma in my literary and professional activities has always been a source of strength to me,” he says. 

(Published in The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)

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