“I first visited Wayanad in Kerala, in 2006, after reading articles on the agricultural crisis there,” says filmmaker Sunanda Bhat, who went on to involve herself in an intense period of research that revealed stories of exploitation and struggle, the revelations that found their way to her documentary, titled Have You Seen the Arana? The film that tells the story of Wayanad through the lives of three ‘ordinary’ people, who engage in different ways with the land, will be screened in the city, today.
Director Sunanda Bhat (extreme left) during the film shoot
It took over six years for the filmmaker to make the documentary that while on one hand encourages us to reflect on our attitudes towards the environment, on the other hand, brings forth interesting practices that are still prevalent in the 21st century and form an integral part of the belief system of several tribes in this part of India.
“During my research, I was fascinated by an ancient tribal myth. Sung for the dead, even in present times, this pulapattu (song for the dead) traces the travels of a mythical couple across Wayanad. The myth is chanted in the hope that souls of the dead will find their way back to their ancestors. This lyrical myth of the Adiya tribe became the thread to interweave contemporary stories of people and their land,” she explains
But, working on a project for six years can prove to be exhausting. “It was a difficult process, and I was often tempted to give up the idea of making a film,” confesses the director, “But whenever I visited Wayanad, people would ask me about the progress of the film. I felt I owed it to them and the characters who had opened their hearts to share their life stories with me,” she recalls.
However, the way forward wasn’t without obstacles. Funding was the biggest challenge for Bhat. “This film was largely self-financed except for a small bit that I got from the Busan International Film Festival in Korea,” she reveals.
She further divulges that there were a lot of other challenges of not knowing the language and having to depend on translators who were not very conversant with English, breaking her wrist in the course of research and having to travel a long distance to get medical attention, among several other issues.