By Jyothi Venkatesh
The film is selected in the Discovery section, which showcases the first or second feature films of directors worldwide. TIFF will be held in a hybrid way, with both in-person and digital screenings.Produced by Anurag Kashyap and Raj Rachakonda, PAKA is a tale of a river that swells with the blood of two feuding families and a young couple that tries to overcome this hatred with their love.The film set in Wayanad of North Kerala, features an ensemble cast including, Basil Paulose (Johnny), Vinitha Koshy (Anna), Jose Kizhakkan (Kochappan), Athul John (Paachi), Nithin George (Joey), Joseph Manickal (Varkey) and is shot 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 NFDC Film Bazaar 2020 and is produced by Studio 99 Films in association with Alif Talkies Productions.Excited about the TIFF Premiere, debut filmmaker Nithin Lukose, an FTII graduate and the sound designer of Thithi and Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar says, “I’m delighted and honoured to see my directorial debut, PAKA (River of Blood), at the Discovery Programme of the 46th Toronto International Film Festival. I was fascinated by the stories and myths my grandmother told me when I was young. PAKA is a manifestation of that fascination. The idea was to tell a universal story that can appeal to the global audience while keeping the film rooted in the cultural attributes of the remote village I grew up in and the people I love. It’s a matter of pride that a regional film like our’s is getting a platform through a globally renowned festival like TIFF.”
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Anurag Kashyap who boarded the project as a producer during its post-production stage says, “Malayalam Cinema is at the moment leading India on the world stage and I am so grateful to be associated with it in a small way. Paka is yet another powerful debut from a rooted new voice.”
Raj Rachakonda who has written-directed-produced a critically acclaimed and commercially successful Telugu feature film Mallesham (Netflix), decided to produce PAKA. Talking about what prompted him to produce the film, he says, “I decided to produce the script from one of the crew members who helped me make my directorial debut, Mallesham. Of the four scripts narrated to me, I opted to produce Nithin’s, who helped me with sound design for Mallesham because PAKA is a poignant story about people’s simultaneous capacity for love and cruelty that displays great depth and emotion.”
In North Kerala, a serpentine river witness to the long and bloody cycle of vengeance between two feuding families. Johnny and Anna, a young couple, wish to end the hatred within their families with their love and begin a life together. However, the return of Johnny’s uncle Kocheppu, after imprisonment and his subsequent disappearance becomes a hurdle in their path of love and forces them onto the path of blood, murder, and revenge.
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Says the director, “I grew up listening to stories told by my grandmother. These were stories of migration, survival, the fights for land and wealth which resulted in the family feud while a large number of the population migrated from the south to the north of Kerala in the 1950s. In this film, a family feud resurges from the past when someone comes back from jail after life imprisonment. I always wanted to make my first Film in Wayanad where I grew up. There is a dangerous river near my place, notorious for its deep trenches. Floods, accidents and murders have pushed people and dead-bodies into the river which only one man in the village can retrieve. He is a middle-aged man named Jose, an outstanding swimmer who knows the river in and out.”
“He is the one who takes out the dead bodies from the river. I grew up seeing this and I shaped the story of the film from my memories. I connected such unique aspects of my hometown to the stories which my grandmother told about family feuds and started writing the story for my first film, and that’s how ‘PAKA (River of Blood)’ shaped into a feature film. We shot it and treated it as an independent film in which 90% of the actors are non-actors from the village and we had a film school crew mostly from my alma mater Film and TV Institute of India. I aspire to tell stories that not only represent and reflect the culture and space I belong to and are also universal. Therefore, PAKA (River of Blood) too, is an attempt to tell a story from the space that I belong to while connecting it universally through its theme- Vengeance.”