Filmmaker Balaram J on his recent animation movie, ‘Oru Thudakkathinte Kadha’

The Malayalam short film discusses the issues of religious intolerance and the importance of people living in harmony

Two decades ago, Balaram J fell in love with cinema after watching films of James Cameron. “I remember being awestruck by Titanic and Avatar. That is how I started to dream of being a filmmaker,” he recalls. Now 24 years old, Balaram has recently released Oru Thudakkathinte Kadha, a Malayalam short animation film on YouTube. The movie is inspired by his own experience of searching for the origin of a stream with his friend at his village called Onakkoor in Ernakulam. “I have a vivid memory of it. It was a summer evening and we walked for a while till we reached a small pond from where it started. Our joy knew no bound at that discovery and we lay down beside the pond looking at the sky for a while,” he recalls.

Balaram J 

Oru Thudakkathinte Kadha was done as Balaram’s graduation project at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. It runs for 11 minutes and 48 seconds. Though it is about three friends who go in search of the origin of a stream, it delves into more serious issues. “Aisha and Ambadi have strong beliefs about the formation of the water body. I have attempted to bring the issues of religious intolerance and the importance of people living in harmony despite our differences.”

He conceptualised the story in March 2019 and discussed the story with popular Malayalam filmmaker Lijo Jose Pellissery. “I have worked with him on his films like Jallikettu and Churuli. He guided me from the beginning and suggested that I go back to the place I grew up in and be with the kids to develop the innocence of my characters better,” he explains.

Balaram spent a few weeks observing children and the location in Onakkoor. “I took photographs and also sketched out the stream and its surroundings. I wanted to make sure that I did not miss out on anything,” he says. Actor Manu Jose helped him to find children from the locality to enact the scenes. “He trained the kids and I recorded everything. Their movements and emotions were used as my reference for the animation.”

Still from the film | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The toughest part for Balaram was the production. “I do not like to spend a lot of time in front of the computer. But I had to spend months inside my room, sketching, re-doing and editing. The movie took one year to complete,” says Balaram, who used TV Paint, After Effects, Photoshop and Premiere Pro for the project. For post-production, he worked with award-winning sound designer Renganaath Ravee, composer Sreerag Saji, and the creative studio Eunoians.

Oru Thudakkathinte Kadha has travelled to more than 30 film festivals, including the Bengaluru International Film Festival, Chaniartoon International Comic and Animation Festival, Greece and the Seoul International Cartoon and Animation Festival, South Korea. Balaram is now working on two live-action films. “One is called The Lost Grasshoppers which reminds us that even a small patch of grass has an ecosystem dependent on it. The second project just started and I am working on its casting,” he concludes.

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