A lyrical journey through Wayanad

Not many may be keen on studying the extent of agrarian crisis that Wayanad is currently facing. But Sunanda Bhat, a documentary filmmaker from Bangalore who visited the place in 2006 started reading about farmers’ suicides and got interested in the effects of the agricultural crisis on landless labourers, largely Adivasis. And this culminated in a 73-minute feature film — Have You Seen the Arana? (Ningal Aranaye Kando), a story that portrays different ways of human intervention and engagement with the land.
Sunanda says, “During the five years of my research in Wayanad, I came across many stories of exploitation and struggle. As my involvement with the place and people grew, a new texture slowly emerged out of the life there. I began to appreciate the incredibly vibrant landscape there, in spite of the rapid transformations in the name of development.”
With a postgraduate diploma in communications and film production, Sunanda has made several documentaries and short films since 1995. The film, Have you seen the Arana?, is a lyrical journey through the vibrant landscapes and lifestyles of Wayanad. The central theme revolves around the effect of the changing landscapes on ‘ordinary’ lives.
The film is structured like a fiction. “We’ve shown cycles of agriculture, landscape and people’s lives. Rather than showing talking heads, the film observes and becomes a part of the dramatic life cycle of the people and their ecosystem,”  Sunanda says.
The film depicts a woman’s concern over the disappearance of medicinal plants from the forest, a farmer’s commitment to organically growing traditional varieties of rice, and a cash crop cultivator’s struggle to survive amidst farmers’ suicides. In the process, it offers fresh insights into the shifting relations between people, knowledge systems and environment.
As hills flatten, forests disappear and traditional knowledge systems are forgotten, the film reminds us that this diversity could disappear forever, to be replaced by monotonous and unsustainable alternatives.
The film was screened in the recently concluded IFFI, Goa, and has been invited to Trigger Pitch, held at IFFK in Thiruvananthapuram, a forum to help documentary films extend their outreach.
Merin Maria James
Deccan Chronicle | 6 Dec 2012
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