By Jyothi Venkatesh
The film will be selected in the Discovery section, which shows the first or second feature films by directors worldwide. TIFF will take place in a hybrid way, with in-person and digital screenings. PAKA, produced by Anurag Kashyap and Raj Rachakonda, is the story of a river swelled by the blood of two warring families and a young couple trying to overcome this hatred with their love. The film is set in Wayanad, northern Kerala, with a cast including Basil Paulose (Johnny), Vinitha Koshy (Anna), Jose Kizhakkan (Kochappan), Athul John (Paachi), Nithin George (Joey), Joseph Manickal (Varkey) and is directed by Srikanth Kabothu, edited by Arunima Shankar, and music by Faizal Ahamed.
The film won the best WIP project in the work-in-progress lab of the NFDC Film Bazaar 2020 and is produced by Studio 99 Films in collaboration with Alif Talkies Productions. Sound designer by Thithi and Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar says: “I am happy and feeling honored to see my directorial debut PAKA (River of Blood) in the Discovery Program of the 46th Toronto International Film Festival. I was fascinated by the stories and myths my grandmother told me when I was little. PAKA is an expression of this fascination. The idea was to tell a universal story that could appeal to global audiences while keeping the film rooted in the cultural traits of the remote village I grew up in and the people I love. It is a matter of pride that a regional film like ours gets a platform through a world-renowned festival like TIFF. “
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Anurag Kashyap, who accompanied the project as a producer during the post-production phase, says: “Malayalam Cinema is currently the world leader in India and I am so grateful that I am connected to it in a small way. Paka is another powerful debut from a deeply rooted new voice. “
Raj Rachakonda, who wrote, directed and produced a critically acclaimed and commercially successful Telugu feature film Mallesham (Netflix), decided to produce PAKA. He explains what made him want to produce the film: “I decided to write the script for Mallesham, one of the crew members who helped me make my directorial debut. Of the four scripts I was told, I chose Nithins, who helped me with the sound design for Mallesham, because PAKA is a poignant story about the simultaneous ability of people to love and cruelty, which shows great depth and emotion. “
In northern Kerala, a serpentine river testifies to the long and bloody cycle of revenge between two warring families. Johnny and Anna, a young couple, want to end the hatred in their families with their love and start a life together. However, the return of Johnny’s uncle Kocheppu after imprisonment and his subsequent disappearance becomes a hurdle on their path of love, forcing them on the path of blood, murder and vengeance.
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The director says, “I grew up listening to stories from my grandmother. These were stories of migration, survival, the struggles for land and wealth that led to the family feud as much of the population migrated from the south to the north of Kerala in the 1950s. In this film, a family feud from the past awakens when someone returns from prison after serving a life sentence. I’ve always wanted to make my first film in Wayanad, where I grew up. There is a dangerous river near me that is notorious for its deep trenches. Floods, accidents and murders have driven people and corpses into the river that only a man in the village can recover. He’s a middle-aged man named Jose, an excellent swimmer who knows the river inside out. “
“He’s the one who pulls the bodies out of the river. I grew up with it and shaped the story of the film from my memories. Combining such unique aspects of my hometown with the stories my grandmother told about family feuds, I started writing the story for my first film and that’s how PAKA (River of Blood) became a feature film. We made it and treated it as an independent film where 90% of the actors are non-village actors and we had a film school team mostly from my alma mater Film and TV Institute of India. My aim is to tell stories that not only represent and reflect the culture and the space to which I belong, but are also universal. Therefore, PAKA (River of Blood) is also an attempt to tell a story from the room to which I belong, and at the same time to connect it universally through its theme – revenge. “