The film chronicles three days when a circus visits a small village in Kerala and creates ripples in the lives of the people. During this time, we learn the geography of the village - the banyan tree with leaves like t...展开ransparent film, the shining water, the light in the sand at sunset…
The film shows the lives of the villagers - school children running to the tent, the village women watching the acrobat perform, the soldier who befriends the circus strong man in a toddy bar, a pump attendant who sits on a rock each day watching a village girl bathe and dry her hair, the dwarf who brings back to the circus a watermelon larger than his head…. The bizarre characters from the circus merge with the local populace.
The circus comes and leaves, and life goes on.
Thambu won Aravindan the National and State film awards for the best director.
Direction & Screenplay: G Aravindan
Cast: Gopi, Nudumudi Venu, Sriraman, Jalaja, members of the Great Chitra Circus
Cinematography: Shaji N Karun
Music: M G Radhakrishnan
When you planned the film THAMBU, what was uppermost in your mind: was it the problems and insecurities of the circus artists or the response of the villagers to the circus tent?
I planned THAMBU as a documentary feature. The film was shot in Thirunavaya on the banks of Bharathapuzha. I came to this village with ten to fifteen circus artistes who had already left their circus company. We did not have a script, and we shot the incidents as they happened. What we did on the first day was to call all the villagers and perform a circus act for them. There were a lot of people who had not seen a circus before. We shot their responses as they were watching. We did not ask them to do anything. After the initial hesitation, they forgot the lights and the shooting and completely got involved in the circus. It was all very original. At that time the village was also getting ready for the Ayappan Vilaku festival, which we used in the film. Finally the whole village got so involved in preparing for its festival, they lost their interest in the circus. The film ends there. In fact it is a location film.
Well, in THAMBU also, there is a discontented young man.
This character was there in the film - young man from an upper middle class family returned from abroad and settled in the native land. I am fascinated by these kind of people. You see similar people in UTTARAYANAM also. This 'return' has been with us for a very very long time. Earlier people 'returned' from Singapore, Burma, Ceylon etc. Now they 'return' from the Gulf. That is the only difference. When they 'come back' they will build a big bungalow and live isolated from the others around. Their relationships are confined to those of similar 'type' - they will of course have their "weekend gatherings". The question is why do they 'come back' if they are unable to or do not want to mix with the people around? My young man is someone who is discontented with this sort of isolation and wants to be in tune with the people and surroundings. He does not like to sit at home. He starts learning to read Malayalam and then ask the circus whether he can join them and ultimately goes away with them.
Just a small comment. Although apparently 'regional', your films, one could say are much broader - Indian. Your comments on contemporary issue reflect more a cynicism towards the present (as in your cartoons) than a nostalgic return to the past.
To get back to the film - the young man has never been to see a circus, has he?
No. When the circus goes back he just goes along with them.
When a circus is on the move, the artists are resting or asleep. They have nothing to expect or remember from the places they visit or stay in. This young man takes a decision to go with them. Why? Perhaps a recognition that he is no different from them! Or is this decision merely coincidental?
He could not get along with his family. To escape the home atmosphere he goes and finds a place under the Banyan tree and learns to read etc. I have included in the film the moment of his decision to join the circus.
At home he was surrounded by rock music while he himself loves classical music. There you see him asking the circus to take him along. The circus manager tells him to get into the van. At that moment he has not identified himself with the circus - he is merely escaping from his environment. No one has taken note of him in the circus company. The film ends with the sequence of him sleeping by the side of the circus clown.
For the circus, this journey is a stagnation. A period of rest, where as for the young man this trip is a progress and escape.
We cannot really say predict what he will become or do... He could become anything...even a circus clown... We are not making it clear. The emphasis is on his escape from the immediate environment.
As you are talking about the journey of the young man, it occurs to me that all your films have this aspect of a voyage to self-discovery or a 'movement' towards betterment of humanity. e.g. in KANCHANA SEETA, Rama carrying the sacrificial fire and going into the Sarayu River; in UTTARAYANAM, Ravi going into the forest; the arrivals and departures of the bogeyman in KUMMATTI according to the seasons; in CHIDAMBARAM Shankaran Kutty's search for peace in his troubled conscience etc. Your films seem to be myriad manifestations of the deep desire of human kind for answers, peace, meaning…?