At its start, ‘Pada’ does purport to be a story of the four men at the centre of action, but eventually widens up until it reveals itself to be an exemplary treatise on the displaced tribal populations across the world, who have fought injustice for years and continue to do so. As such, it is a much valued cinematic piece that advocates for a deeper consideration on our part and prompts us to come up with our own versions of the truth.
October 4, 1996. The day that saw four men – Ajayan Mannur, Vilayodi Sivankutty, Kallara Babu and Kanhangad Ramesan – take the state by storm, by holding the then Palakkad District Collector W R Reddy hostage for ten hours in his office, through a siege operation hitherto unwitnessed or unheard of in the state. The men proclaimed themselves to be part of an organization named Ayyankali Pada, that championed tribal rights.
What had instigated them was the Tribal Bill that was passed by the Kerala Legislative Assembly, that put the tribal population in the state in anguish, depriving them of the land that not just belonged to them, but which was a part of their very being and existence. Demanding that the Government retract from its stance, they brought the entire bureaucracy knocking on their doors and their startling act soon saw the state succumbing to their demands.
Kamal KM’s ‘Pada’ is an admirable cinematic recreation of this event that remains visibly etched in the history of the state. This is a tale that is outside the realm of the ordinary, and the film maker, with his sharp observation and remarkable focus transforms it into a haunting account of the struggle for survival of a populace that often remains invisible to the rest of the world .
With little compromises made, ‘Pada’ takes a non-judgmental stand towards an occurrence of much import, and narrates it mostly from the points of view of the four men, while gently opening up the doors for the rest of the partakers to walk in. Rakesh (Kunchacko Boban), Balu (Vinayakan). Aravindan (Joju George) and Kutty (Dileesh Pothen) strike gold on their second attempt, the first try having flopped on account of the Collector not turning up that day.
The Collector – Ajay Sripad Dange (Arjun Balakrishnan) – is an agile officer, whose composure is all shaken up minutes within he realizes what the men are up to. He is quick to regain it back though, and tries to coerce them back to their senses, through a conciliatory dialogue that reaches nowhere. The men demand the involvement of Advocate Jayapalan (T G Ravi) as the mediator and manage to convince the Chief Secretary Rajasekharan (Prakash Raj) that they mean business. On his arrival, the lawyer succeeds in striking a note of compromise, and after almost half a day, the Collector is released.
‘Pada’ ends where the lives of the four men are transformed into an endless ordeal with the police determined to make them pay. It does leave the impression that what has been left untold is much graver than what has been depicted on screen, and the film does leave a trail behind that must lead to the doomed spaces that their lives had spiraled down into.
‘Pada’ also flashes a fascinating torchlight onto the minds of four men who decide to do the seemingly impossible, taking on a massive police force, gritty people in power and their own personal battles in the face. It is also a rare breed of a film that illuminates just enough to keep us digging around to unearth what lies beneath.
The film is full of brilliant performances, but we have an actor who does spring a huge surprise on us in the form of Arjun Radhakrishnan who plays the collector. His essayal of the compassionate officer leads by a mile, and does overshadow even feats from veteran artists as Dileesh, Joju, Kunchacko Boban, Prakash Raj and Vinayakan.
At its start, it does purport to be a story of the four men at the centre of action, but eventually widens up until it reveals itself to be an exemplary treatise on the displaced tribal populations across the world, who have fought injustice for years and continue to do so. As such, it is a much valued cinematic piece that advocates for a deeper consideration on our part and prompts us to come up with our own versions of the truth.