Published: 20th September 2019
Why everyone must watch Raven, a Malayalam music video on casteism and discrimination
Raven tells us the story of a Dalit father who is searching for his son, who was abducted for living his life a certain way. We catch up with its creator
A raven is not a bird that many people find aesthetically pleasing.
After all, a raven can never be a crane, even if it takes a dip.
This is what a popular Malayalam proverb translates to. If you've seen the Malayalam video Raven, that has since gone viral, this is one of the many things that the protagonist's son grew up hearing, whenever he wore colourful or good clothes.
Directed by Adarsh Kumar Aniyal, this video has more than 12,000 likes in 4 days. The spoken word-cum-music video narrates the story of a Dalit father in search of his son. The son is dark, thin, with coloured long hair and was often taunted for the way he looked and the background that he came from. Most of those have not-too-subtle casteist and classist undertones. Eventually, the son is probably abducted or murdered and the video shows the way the father transforms, accepting his background and his son's way of life. And that's how the video ends.
Watch the full video here:
This is probably the first time that the colour black is associated with Dalit resistance in a Malayalam video. At several instances in the video, you will see statues of Ayyankali and Ambedkar in the background."The raven is black and no one likes the way it actually looks. We wanted to show that the raven and its colour aren't bad. Also, the title is wordplay because many people tend to pronounce it as Ravan," says Adarsh, who is inspired by the works of Mari Selvaraj (Pariyerum Perumal), Pa Ranjith (Madras, Kaala) and Lijo Jose Pellissery (Ee.Ma.Yau).
There is no one particular instance that inspired Adarsh to make Raven. He recalls how he and his friends had to face discrimination, growing up in Vypin near Kochi. "I understood how ugly things can get when I coloured my head red once. Many people think that I'm narrating my own story here, but the plot here is derived out of a lot of things that many people that I know have gone through," says the 25-year-old.
The role of the protagonist is portrayed by Adarsh's father Ambujakshan, who is a fisherman. "My father loves to act. Years ago, he has acted in plays. He was a little apprehensive about the role initially, but eventually he agreed," he says. Ambujakshan grew his hair and beard long for the first time, just for the sake of the video. That, in fact, gave him a life lesson. "Many started asking him to cut his hair and shave off his beard. That was when he got to know the kind of comments that us youngsters have to hear. Almost all of it has a casteist undertone to it," he says. "But he has the right to keep his beard or shave it off. It is his life," he adds.
Once the video was out, the audience really loved Ambujakshan and his beard. A few days ago, Adarsh had uploaded a photograph of him and his father on Facebook. The caption had the latter's number and asked people to call him and let him know how they feel about his performance. However, that number was switched off when we tried calling. To this Adarsh says, shyly, "Father was using a basic old phone. It was buzzing with praises since morning. However, the phone wasn't designed to handle so many calls, so it stopped working."
A lot of student activists and leaders from institutions like Delhi University and JNU have also called Adarsh telling him how much they loved Raven. "Until now, I've only heard positive messages. I'm surprised that so many women also liked it," he says. An assistant director in the Malayalam film industry, he now plans to make a feature film on the lines of caste discrimination.