There is a certain nostalgia and comfort in listening to the stories passed down over the years by our ancestors, of yore. It takes on a different dimension when our grandparents admit to seeing mythical spirits and coming face to face with the creatures or ghouls from the folklores. With these stories, comes alive the man, the myth, and the legend.
No matter which region one is a part of, the folk stories are not isolated to one area. They come to constitute a part of a bigger, larger cultural fabric that ties together different regional communities and their cultures through the age-old tradition of generational storytelling and passing down stories.
These folklores and the tradition of generational storytelling have come to define certain regions, capturing the zeitgeist of eras, the beliefs, the customs, and even the ethos of the people. This is precisely what we see in the national award-winning short film, Kandittund, which delves into the urban legends of Kerala from the imagination of a 93 year old man.
Kandittund, or Seen it! , is a Malayalam animation short film created through PNK Panicker's storytelling of ghouls and spirits he’s encountered in his life. It stands as an archive of Kerala's urban legends. Every frame of the film is meticulously hand-drawn, making it an arduous year-and-a-half journey due to the multitude of drawings involved. For a 11-minute short film, it has taken the efforts of numerous people.
The short film begins with Suresh Eriyat, the creative director, introducing his 93-year-old father, Pazhumadathil Narayana Panicker, describing him as a "jolly good fellow," he reminisces about how his father used to sneak off to cinemas every week. He would gather bits from films, hearsay and other folklore and combine them with his own inventive additions. All this together gave birth to a collection of ‘harmless lies’ and ‘fantastical exaggerations’ forming the foundation of his stories.
Kandittund provides a glimpse into the life of kerala as populated by characters from Malayalam folklore. These characters emerge from the vivid tales of 93-year-old PNK Panicker, who asserts that ghosts and ghouls inhabit our world. The short film brings to life six folk creatures conjured from Panicker's narratives. What is particularly interesting is he claims to have encountered most of them firsthand.
From Panicker's lores, we learn that ghoul eenam pechi ventures out at precisely 2:30 am to consume raw mangoes and prey on pregnant women. Aana marutha is a peculiar one-and-a-half-foot elephant-like creature, while arukola is a mysterious faceless shadow that hovers between sky and earth, following men. Then there's thendan, with eyes resembling areca nuts. Panicker attests to witnessing most of these beings, except for arukola, which defies direct gaze, and kuttichaathan, of which he's only seen idols. His encounter with Thendan was a solitary instance.
With the attention to detail in his stories, this array of tales underscores the versatility of Kerala's storytelling tradition. The diversity of characters, creatures, and the settings which are combined with the intricate elements of Panicker's daily life. He claims to have witnessed Thendan during a temple visit, revealing the fluid line between his reality and the supernatural.
At times while narrating the stories, Panicker seems to be making them up, improvising details as he goes along. This is deftly captured in the short film when the narrator avatar of Panicker, in certain parts of the film, gets caught off guard by the questions posed by his son. In these moments, you can quickly see him getting flustered, trying to come up with an answer on the spot. However, he is known for finding explanations and reasons for everything.
Panicker is just one among the sea of storytellers who have come to collectively shape the rich fabric of storytelling that defines the cultural heritage of India.
All these folklores in Kandittund with their imaginative creatures speaks to Panicker's originality, but you can also sense traces of the culture from the region he belongs to, and the life he lived. We glimpse into his daily life juxtaposed with supernatural elements, drawing from films, hearsay, and the legacy of past storytellers. Then, these folklores and their creatures are not just products of imagination; they mirror fragments of Panicker's cultural surroundings. Kuttitund, therefore, is the blending of elements which speaks to the culture of his time.
Watch Kandittund! above.
If you enjoyed reading this, here's more from Homegrown :