When a Powerful Image Gave Birth to a Stirring Tale

When Ritu Raj Konwar, the Guwahati-based special news photographer of The Hindu clicked a photo during the Assam floods in the district of Morigaon during last August, he never would have thought it would become the inspiration to an award-winning film.

Ottal, which won this year’s Kerala State Film Award for best film, was inspired by Konwar’s photo which caught the imagination of Malayalam film director Jayaraj.

Director Jayaraj

Earlier, Ottal had also won two national awards – best environment film and best adapted screenplay. The film talks about a boy’s relationship with his grandfather.

“The photo made a deep impression on me, and it haunted me; I wanted to use that very scene in my film”, Jayaraj said. He said he was able to connect the beautiful photograph with ‘Vanka’, a short story by Anton Chekhov. Wanting to adapt the story for a long time, the photograph inspired him to make the film as it is. The photo was brought to the attention of the director by his father-in-law M P Surendranath, a retired college lecturer.

“The state award means more to me as Ottal is much more than an environment film,” says the director who has won several national and state awards for his classic films like Kaliyattam, Deshadanam and Shantham. He adds that Ottal is one of his personal favourites.

Jayaraj had called up the photographer Konwar enquiring about how to trace the boy in the photo. He would be visiting Assam soon for this purpose, he told The Hindu, “I want to help him in any way possible, such as financing his studies.”

(Photo courtesy: Ritu Raj Konwar, The Hindu)