Though the name – Kanthan The Lover of Colour, has registered with Keralites as the State Award winning film, not many people are aware that it was made by Shareef Easa who works as a daily wage labourer.
According to Scroll.in, the 32-year-old was back to work at the rubber plantation in Kannur district’s Chapparapadavu village, a day after the announcement of the 49th Kerala State Film Awards.
“The best thing about the award is that now I can confidently ask for more time to repay my debt,” he says. Easa had to sell his wife’s jewellery, and the camera with which he shot the movie, to complete the movie. He says, “I still have a debt of Rs 20 lakh.”
Easa, who has been tapping rubber since the age of 18, has distributed newspapers, reared cattle, been a wedding videographer, and worked as a reporter for the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-owned Malayalam newspaper Deshabhimani.
His daily routine involves waking up at four in the morning, walking to the plantation two kilometres away, tapping the rubber trees, collecting the latex and handing it over to the owner of the plantation. Easa earns Rs 600 per day. “I get Rs 2 per tree and I can tap 300 trees in six hours,” he says.
He has held prominent positions in the children, student and youth wings of the CPI(M). At the age of 13, he wrote and directed a play that won the first prize at an inter-school competition. Easa has since directed several professional and amateur street plays. He has also directed three short films and worked as an assistant director in two low-budget feature films.
It was the Dalit research scholar Rohit Vemula’s suicide, at the Hyderabad Central University in January 2016, that prompted him to take up feature filmmaking. “His suicide made me cry, and I decided to work on a 10-minute short film on him,” Easa says.
Easa began working on Kanthan The Lover of Colour in 2017. He clubbed the production work along with his daily routine. His friend and poet Pramod Kooveri, who lives in his village, wrote the screenplay. Another friend, Priyan, shot the movie.
The film speaks about the atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis, and the destruction of nature. “It is a socially relevant movie,” Easa says.
Before winning the Kerala State Film Awards, the movie was selected in the regional language competition section of the Kolkata International Film Festival in November 2018. “The invitation was a dream come true for us,” says Easa. “It was a recognition of our hard work. The selection helped us realise our dream of travelling by flight too. Being a film student, what more could I have asked for?”
However, Kanthan… didn’t get selected for the International Film Festival of Kerala, which left Easa disheartened. “This state award is a fitting reply to those who denied us the entry,” says Easa.
Image Courtesy: IE