PAKA (the river of blood) is a Malayalam movie that was written and directed by Nithin Lukose, starring renowned Malayali actors such as Vinitha Koshy, Basil Paulose, and Nithin George. This movie depicts the tale of a river being divided amongst the feud between two families, as a young couple falls in love and tries to overcome the hatred that exists between the two families. The movie is set for its world premiere on 13th September 2021 and is said to be inspired by the tales Nithin (the director) heard as he was growing up within Wayanad.
When Nithin, an alumnus of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTI), decided to make Paka, which captured the rustic and serene beauty of the village he resided in, he did not expect his film to be backed up by a renowned Bollywood filmmaker like Anurag Kashyap as the film’s producer, or that this film would make its way to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2021. TIFF will run from 9th September to 18th September 2021, where all the major titles are lined up to be displayed either through in-person-screenings or through digital crossbred format in Canada.
About the crew
To provide some context, Nithin himself resided in Ayia Moola which is just 8.5 km away from Wayanad, where the story of Paka takes place. And because Nithins’ ancestors were settlers within Kaduthuruthy and Moolamattom in Central Kerala, they had to work quite hard to prove their resilience and tenacity. Some other defining struggles of the village included farmers having to deal with infectious diseases like malaria most of the season or being adversely affected by human-animal conflicts, which made it very hard for them to survive.
- The backstory
When a community is oppressed even when it comes to its most basic needs, a division between the strong and the weak becomes inevitable. Similarly, it is impossible to not have feuds between families on both serious and petty matters. And when there is conflict, then a dirty hand (i.e., criminal activities) follows suit without any hesitation. This means that despite all the chaos that came from the feud between the families that stayed at both sides of the river, the river Orapp Puzha remained unaffected by any crimes or the chaos.
So, it is almost imperative to say that the Orapp river has seen and drowned several stories of the village within itself. Even Nithin expressed how grateful he is to the multidimensional stories he listened to from his grandmother as he grew up. Moreover, the director ended up adding some anecdotes from his family and personal experiences to make the movie more alluring for the movie screen. Therefore, the name ‘Paka; The River of Blood’ seems more relevant and consistent with the backstory of the movie which has been inspired by such tales and stories of rustic village life.
Fun facts about the film in making
- The actors
A fun fact to know about the cast and crew of the movie is that Nithin selected the actors who are either partly related to the myths, or those who are still living in the village beside the river Orapp. These people were preferred by the director because these individuals were already familiar with the myths, the stories, and the details about each character being played, thus requiring very little training or guidance. For example, an individual named Jose who specializes in retrieving dead bodies regardless of how deep they are buried, and who is of value to the real-life stories of the village, has been included in this movie as well to make it as real as possible. Consequently, this grave understanding of the characters and having a realistic crew helped in the showcasing of good performances by all actors regardless of their screen time, which resulted in only 35 days of shooting.
Talking about the crew itself, Vinitha Koshy, who has already worked in renowned films such as Ottamuri Velicham, Aby, Luca, etc., was cast in this film besides other known leading actors such as Jose Kizhakkan, Basil Paulose and Nithin George. Moreover, although an FTII acting diploma holder, Sooraj from Hyderabad, was hired to train the actors, the actors seldom required his guidance and tended to exceed his expectations repeatedly.
- Music and sound design
Furthermore, Faizal Ahmed was responsible for the music composition for the film while Srikant Kabothu handled the camera work to display the serene landscape where the movie was shot, and Arunima Shanker edited this film. Lastly, Jobin Jayan, Aravind Sundar, and Pramod Sundar were entrusted with the film’s sound design even though Nithin himself has done the sound design for more than 20 movies in his career. Additionally, when Nithin sound designed for the movie Mallesham (a Telugu Movie) alongside producer Raj Rachakonda, he did not expect Raj to become a co-producer of Paka at all.
- Anurag’s fate tied to the movie
Another interesting anecdote regarding the movie happens to be how Anurag Kashyap was one of the very first to be shown the first cut of the movie, and how well supported Nithin felt to have a patron backing him up, both with verbal praise and financially. This further proves the commitment that Kashyap has displayed throughout his life towards good movies, and how language barriers can be resolved with good acting and storyline.
Paka has been deemed as one of the best out of the five other nominations shortlisted by the Lab of NFDC Film Bazaar. After the sudden break that the pandemic brought upon the film industry, TIFF aims to be better this year by showcasing many major titles. And for Paka to be among them has not only made the Malayalam industry proud but has also helped Indian cinema gain international acknowledgment and recognition.