Shyamaprasad: Kasiminte Kadal navigates the harsh realities of life
The acclaimed filmmaker on the screen adaptation of Anees Salim's The Small-Town Sea which is set to be screened at the Indian Film Festival Stuttgart
In 2019, we reported that filmmaker Shyamaprasad was adapting author Anees Salim's acclaimed novel The Small-Town Sea for the screen. Featuring Harish Uthaman, Tashi, and a host of new faces, the recently completed film, titled Kasiminte Kadal, has been accepted for screening at the upcoming Indian Film Festival in Stuttgart, Germany. The filmmaker hopes to get it released on an OTT platform as soon as it completes doing the rounds on the festival circuit.
Shyamaprasad's interest in the book stems from the fact that he wanted to meditate on the impermanence of life, loss, and after-effects through the eyes of a child, the titular Kasim (Tashi). However, unlike the biographical nature of the book, Shyamaprasad envisioned it from his own vantage point. Naturally, the format, he says, is different to that of the book. "Whatever is in the novel is made for that particular form of storytelling. The form and needs of cinema are different. But it was most important for me to capture the book's essence and retain everything that inspired me about The Small-Town Sea in the film. That, for me, was the guiding principle."
Since Shyamaprasad set the film in Varkala, he was particular about casting people from there to get the local dialect and atmosphere right. It was achieved through an audition process, followed by acting workshops. He also insisted on sync sound to lend a sense of authenticity. "There is a lot of rustic nativity in it that would be identifiable to people who have visited Varkala," he adds.
In Kasiminite Kadal, Harish Uthaman plays the terminally ill father of the central character who wishes to spend the last days of his life in Varkala. To that end, he rents a small cottage near the sea and makes arrangements to meet friends and family.
"The story principally revolves around a father-son bond and how the boy tries to come to terms with his death," shares Shyamaprasad, who calls it a "coming-of-age" story. "We rarely see such stories exploring the darker aspects of life. Very often, they only manage the superficial. The idea of children grappling with harsh realities of life such as death, loss, and the pain of separation appealed to the filmmaker in me. This is something that Satyajit Ray did wonderfully in The Apu Trilogy, and The Small-Town Sea navigates similar waters. I felt this realisation element contributes to the book's greatness, among other things."
Harish is also one of the co-producers of Kasiminite Kadal, along with Shyamaprasad and others. "Harish took that call after being impressed with the material," says Shyamaprasad, who is all praise for the former's acting prowess. "He is an underrated actor. One of his interesting qualities is his ambiguous nativity. People often wonder whether he is a Malayali or a Tamilian. Perhaps this ambivalence explains why he isn't appreciated enough. He is aware of his limitations and associated stereotypes. But he is also looking for strong character roles in interesting projects. He is one of the finest human beings I've worked with in the industry. He is willing to go to any extent for his role and alter himself to fit into a character. I hope this film brings him some degree of critical attention."