Published: 05th August 2020
Why Thabalkaran, a film about a superhuman postman in the Nilgiris is heartwarming
Arjun Krishna, Arjun Davies and Anand Rama Krishnan's film about postman D Sivan is part awe-inspiring but absolutely picturesque
In 2018, three friends visited the quaint and sleepy Hillgrove Railway Station in the Nilgiris to shoot a project. They were photographers and videographers who became friends when they came to pursue a course at an academy not very far away. But what they saw that day changed them forever. They saw a man, a postman, coming down the hills clad in an India Post uniform holding that trademark satchel. The postman was alone and they hadn't seen anyone else coming that way.
Curiosity sufficiently piqued, the three approached the postman and asked him where he came from. He replied that he was doing his job - delivering letters to a small village up in the hills and through the forest. The postman also said that he walked 15 km every day to his job and has been doing so for over a decade. Almost two years later, on July 19, 2020, Arjun Krishna (26), Anand Rama Krishnan (28) and Arjun Davis (28) released their documentary short film on the same postman, D Sivan, a week after he retired from service.
Krishna, Davis and Anand met while pursuing a professional photography course in Light and Life Academy in Ooty. The trio would often go back to shoot projects there and that is how they met Sivan
Titled Thabalkaran (meaning postman), the film is just over six minutes long and features Sivan going about his daily routine starting from the Hillgrove Post Office in Coonoor, making his way through forests of Nilgiris and reaching his destination. "We shot the film over a period of two days almost six months after we first met him. At the time after meeting him we got tied up with other jobs. But shooting documentaries has always been a passion for us and we decided to tell Sivan's story in our first attempt," says Arjun Krishna, who hails from Thrissur in Kerala. "We spent four days there during the shoot. On the first day, we had to get necessary permits and on the second day we decided to follow Sivan on his path through the forest. He showed us how he travelled to the village, what he did and what challenges he faced. We followed him again in his path to the village on the third and fourth day, but this time with cameras and other equipment," recalls Krishna.
IAS officer Supriya Sahu had tweeted about D Sivan the week he retired. The post went viral and the trio was able to capitalise it to promote the film
In the film, released under the trio's banner Shola Films, Sivan can be seen chanting the Gayatri Mantra during his walk. In some shots he can also be seen meditating in the forest. Krishna explains, "Sivan said he follows the mantra in his life after he was taught by a guru at a young age. He considers the forest so sacred and peaceful that he sometimes likes to meditate during his long walk." The film also shows Sivan, who joined service in 1985, walking over treacherous paths and coming face to face with wild animals, but remaining unflinching in his duty. But shooting him wasn't easy for the trio. "Sivan has a certain pace for walking through that rough terrain. We were shooting on his working days and it was quite difficult to keep up," Krishna quips.
But why did the trio release the film after such a long delay? "After shooting the film, we again went on our own path and worked in commercial projects," says Krishna, who along with Anand and Davis, is working as a professional photographer in Bengaluru. "It was in 2020 when we again reopened this project and began thinking that we'd have to reshoot some things. But when we saw the footage, we decided that what we already had would work only if we changed the angle of the story. We did that and planned to coincide the film's release with the date of Sivan's retirement," explains Krishna.