On September 3, ‘Karuppu’ had its preview at Carnival Cinemas at the Mall of Travancore in Thiruvananthapuram. It was a low-key affair, unlike the usual glitzy star-studded film events. Two aspects make the film special — it’s the first feature film produced by schoolchildren and it revolves around the pressing social issue of racial discrimination faced by marginalised tribal kids.
The film’s genesis can be traced back to 2017 when the Nayanar Smaraka Government Higher Secondary School in Vengad, Kannur, approached award-winning director T Deepesh saying they wanted to make a film.
“At first I was surprised and at the same time very happy when the students came and told me that they want to make a movie. I made up my mind that it can’t be made just to give the kids a chance to act, but should be a proper feature film with a message,” says Deepesh.
The first spark of the story struck Deepesh during a trip to a hillock where he saw a dark-complexioned 13-year-old tribal boy merrily swimming in the river.
“The boy was all alone there. From his whoops of enjoyment, it was pretty clear that the loneliness did not affect him. When I asked him why he was alone there instead of going to school, he said with tears in his eyes, ‘Everyone at school has ostracized me because of my colour’. For several days I was left with mixed feelings and finally decided that this has to be discussed on the big screen,” adds Deepesh.
KC Nandan, a student from the Paniya tribe at the Aralam farm in Kannur district, plays the protagonist in the movie and the other child artists were chosen following an acting camp.
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National Service Scheme (NSS) volunteers from the school raised Rs 35 lakh to produce the film. The Kannur district panchayat also extended support.
“I have to admit that these kids did everything from providing meals to the crew to working with several departments on the sets. They skillfully stepped into the role of producers,” says Deepesh.
The 1.5-hour film was made on a shoestring budget. It was mostly shot in Kannur and Wayanad districts. Importantly, the makers made sure that they did not compromise on the visual quality of the film.
Education Minister C Ravindranath inaugurated the movie’s preview. Last December, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan launched the film’s title. From the film fraternity, actor Tovino Thomas released the teaser of the film on his Facebook page, noting that it was the first time a school was involved in making a movie.
‘Karuppu’ will be screened in various schools across Kerala. Revenues from the film will go towards providing poor families with a means of livelihood as part of the NSS’s Upajeevanam scheme.