‘Chavittu/Stomp': An Experimental Malayalam Film Where Theatre And Art Are The Protagonists

‘Chavittu/Stomp': An Experimental Malayalam Film Where Theatre And Art Are The Protagonists

The sound of collective stomping with loud roars of resistance songs, a local function dedicated to celebrating art yet ions away from transforming that celebration into reality and the convergence of nature, art and individuality. Chavittu/Stomp is a 2021 Malayalam film directed by the brilliant Rahman Brothers, Sajas, and Shinos Rahman that centers on a theatre group invited to perform at the annual function of a residential association.

The film switches between two locations during the entirety of the movie, one being the group’s rehearsal space hugged by nature and open spaces and the other being the hall in which the function is supposed to be held. The movie provides insight into the process of the group prepping for the performance and attempts to make the audience understand the detailing of the voice, body and songs while keeping the exact story of the play unclear.

The elusiveness of the story of the play is a deliberate part of the movie. It is done to allow the viewers to concentrate on the central ethos of the message being conveyed in the film.

As a movie whose protagonists essentially are theatre and art, the character of the director displays a lack of deep appreciation and respect that the common folk possess for artists and their art beyond a pretentiousness on the surface, to sound culturally evoked.

Image Courtesy: IFFR

The structure and flow of the film make you engrossed in where the story is headed. The camera follows a pattern of switching from showcasing the group’s practices which are invigorating to watch and to the hall where the group sets up the stage for their performance. Apart from the group, we are introduced to four distinct characters that the group interacts with during the day of the performance, and we see the humour and emotional connection that they establish with each of them. These people play a significant role in the plot where their characters are tools to introduce the idea that interaction with art and it’s an artist in any sort of way, pushes you to respect and appreciate it more than someone unbothered with it.

Along with being thought-provoking, the film is also hilarious. With its presentation of how typical Indian functions go, with uncomfortable solo performance always interrupted by a small child climbing onto the stage for attention, long speeches with philosophical undertones of sanskaar and the infamous certainty of nothing ever happening on time. We see the characters embracing the humour of it all while practising or interacting with other characters.

Image Courtesy: IFFR

The Process

The technique of filming the movie adopted by the filmmakers exponentially paid off as evident from the authenticity that it offers. Sajas Rahmon, one of the filmmakers, spoke about the free and open process of film they decided to undertake for the film. Chavittu Nadakam is a popular classical art form that originated in the Ernakulam district of Kerala and the theatre group introduced to us in the film, aren’t just actors but actual Chavittu Nadakam group called the Little Earth School of Theatre. That realness is reflected in the movie as viewers are left in awe of their talent. The director often times left the camera rolling in order to capture real human behaviour but also the many sounds of nature that were strategically and beautifully used as part of the movie’s score

The unconventional technique undertaken by the brothers was filming the movie without a script. The crew did not start filming guided by a word to word script but by a mere outline of the concept of the movie. The storyline, the flow and the development of the movie were decided in the editing room. Although, a seemingly risky idea, every bit of the filming process was done with such precision and sensibility that the crew was never called back to shoot extra footage.

This open and experimental process of capturing an idea, capturing a story and converging every aspect of them to build a film, is what makes the movie stand out in several ways. It becomes evident that when you’re guided by pure passion for what an artform stands for, it can pay off even without a safety net. Chavittu showed us just that while keeping us on the edge of our seats throughout.

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