Family director Don Palathara: ‘I don’t create films that offer immediate gratification’ | Malayalam News – DollarJob

Family director Don Palathara: ‘I don’t create films that offer immediate gratification’ | Malayalam News


Don Palathara’s Family is not a film that just discusses paedophilia, nor does it preach about its various layers. Instead, it delves into how families, the church and a conservative, close-knit society “facilitate” child sexual abuse and provide a haven for predators. In a recent interview, Don had said that he looked at this particular story as a “horror story”, albeit it doesn’t rely on conventional techniques typically found in horror films. Yet, Family manages to unsettle viewers through its understated setting and non-loud moments, prompting a gradual realisation of the pervasive existence of such environments where children are silenced and voices of doubts are suppressed.

Featuring Vinay Forrt, Divya Prabha, Mathew Thomas and Nilja K Baby in key roles, Family premiered in theatres today, marking Don’s first public cinematic release. While the filmmaker is curious and excited about the film reaching a wider audience, he maintains only realistic expectations. “I am well aware of the situation in Kerala, where people tend to opt for ‘entertaining’ films when going to cinema halls. If it’s a contemplative film, people may not be very keen to catch it in a theatre,” he said in an exclusive conversation with The Indian Express.

“Nonetheless, when making a movie, it’s essential to make it available to the public. That is also part of the process. In this case, I believe it’s a film that many people in Kerala can relate to in certain ways. They should be able to watch, analyse and think about it later. It might not immediately strike them. But it could occur to them, maybe a week later or so. It’s a slow process. I don’t aim to create films that offer immediate gratification, an experience that will end in theatres. My goal is to make something that lasts longer,” he added.

Since it features a paedophile character, Sony (Vinay) at its centre, the choice by Don and co-writer Sherin Catherine to name the film Family will undoubtedly provoke contemplation. Discussing his idea of family, Don expressed, “Family can hold varied meanings for different people, myself included. I believe that family should be something we create rather than something we are given. The bonds and relationships I cherish are those I have cultivated and nurtured, not those imposed upon. In the film’s context, I am somewhat mocking the establishment that is already in place. The ‘family’ here is enclosed in double quotes.”

Watch Family trailer here:

Family also challenges the perceived innocence often attributed to rural areas and their inhabitants, a notion perpetuated by romantics to suggest that urban dwellers lack compassion and empathy. The film illustrates how atrocities such as child sex abuse are prevalent in rural areas as well. Don’s previous works, Shavam (2015) and 1956, Central Travancore (2019), too similarly highlighted that villages are not always idyllic paradises.

Festive offer

“People are complex beings; they can’t be easily defined in simple terms. When you say that the people in rural areas are gullible and innocent, or vice versa, these are general statements. There are many complex layers to life wherein their culture and religious upbringing also play key roles. I aim to understand it with all these nuances. Growing up, I too learnt poems and heard narratives romanticising village life, but I don’t subscribe to such simplistic generalisations,” he noted.

As there are ongoing discussions about paedophilia, analysing it as a crime, a disorder or a sexual orientation, Don was also asked about his approach to the subject. “For me, it was crystal clear: when someone acts on these matters, it’s a crime. There are no two ways about it. I believe anyone who watches the film will clearly see how we approached the subject. However, the focus isn’t solely on his psychology. It’s about how society contributes and enables such behaviours within the regressive setup we have.”

Though Family contains several chilling scenes, Don intentionally avoided using graphic portrayals of assault, unlike many male filmmakers who address similar themes. “I don’t enjoy watching violence on screen. How can I create something that I don’t like to watch? I make films that I can watch. Secondly, when depicting violence on screen, there is a possibility that some people might derive enjoyment and voyeuristic pleasure from it. So, I believe we have a responsibility as filmmakers regarding the visuals we create.”

One of the beauties of Family is its adept use of wide and long shots, with little to no close-ups. However, the film concludes with an unsettling medium close-up of Sony, wherein the character nearly breaks the fourth wall. Discussing this eerie shot, Don explained, “To me, it’s not a breaking of the fourth wall. By then, Sony has gradually gained power by conforming to the system. Despite committing numerous crimes, he plays it safe and makes it easy for society to accept him. He even follows the resolutions given by society. Eventually, by playing his game, he attains a very powerful position where he can easily continue his crimes. He becomes unquestionable and doesn’t need to fear anyone. That was the basic idea behind that shot.”

Another remarkable aspect of the film is its superb utilisation of static shots. In one scene, Family presents a prolonged shot of a wedding ceremony, skillfully capturing a large gathering without any camera movement. It effectively depicts their presence, gestures and expressions as they gaze almost directly at it, creating a sense of heightened awareness for those watching. “We wanted to communicate the eeriness and silence that is possible towards something very ceremonious and also people’s close attention to such events. The film is all about building a world and how that world communicates and how it is similar to the world we live in, albeit not identical. The whole idea was that the bigger picture should reflect certain truths about our reality as well. That’s why we designed such shorts. We get the bigger picture when we connect these dots by observing the juxtaposition of different images and understanding what idea or emotion they communicate,” he mentioned.

When asked whether he would have been able to make the films he did or desires to create had he been part of the mainstream film industry, the filmmaker laughed and replied, “I don’t know because the only path for me is the one I’m on right now. I wouldn’t be pursuing anything else, and if I didn’t enjoy this, I wouldn’t be doing it. So, why would I be part of anything else?”

While Family marks his sixth directorial venture following Shavam, Vith (2017), 1956, Central Travancore, Everything Is Cinema (2021) and Santhoshathinte Onnam Rahasyam (2021), Don Palathara stands out as one of the few contemporary Malayalam filmmakers who refuses to conform to conventional norms. When asked by The Indian Express whether, in a time when people claim the industry’s landscape has changed, it is still challenging to achieve success as an independent filmmaker, Don was quick to correct us that he himself hasn’t reached a significant level of success. “Nothing is easy. I don’t think I have reached anywhere in my journey. It’s an ongoing process. Every time you make a film, it’s like making the first film again. You are learning so many things along the way. You will earn a few contacts gradually and that helps you. But you still have to put in so much effort every time you make a film, especially if you’re trying to do something different. It’s all about consistency for me, rather than having big luck or getting an award. For me, the process is more important,” he concluded.


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