Made by Wayanad-based filmmaker Nirmal Baby Varghese, it was filmed in September, after COVID-19 restrictions were eased

One of Malayalam’s first ‘found footage’ films, a horror film, Vazhiye, is ready. Made by Wayanad-based filmmaker Nirmal Baby Varghese, it was filmed in September, after COVID-19 restrictions were eased. “I chose this narrative technique because the camera ‘becomes’ a character and the viewer feels like they are part of the action. Also, ‘found footage’ adds to the scary feel,” he says. Vazhiye is about two YouTubers who are in a forest to unearth a mystery and find they are part of a different kind of action. The music score for the film is by American composer Evan Evans.

Nirmal, a history graduate has made a couple of short films – Mirror of Reality and Mattam The Change – scripted and directed by him in 2016 — both of which are streaming on Prime Video. Wanting to make films, for as long as he could remember, he joined a film editing course after graduation. In 2018, he began filming a project which he had been researching since 2011 – on Wayanad’s well-documented ‘gold rush’.

The stories he had heard about the gold rush, dating back to the mid-1800s, roused his curiosity. Digging around for information, he made a documentary Thariode. “From 2011 I had been looking for information on it, I was still in college then. By 2018 I had enough to make a documentary, which I completed in 2019,” Nirmal says.

Abandoned mines, archival material, historians and locals of Thariode were his sources. “At one time, there were more than 30 companies mining for gold. Gold mining, from sand, is still being practised, albeit on a smaller, informal scale in places such as Nilambur, the Chaliyar river and nearby areas. Back in the 19th century, there was talk that Wayanad had three-four times the gold found then in Victoria (Australia). They were wrong. It is said the mining companies closed and began concentrating on Kolar afterwards,” he says. According to records, Australian miners began digging for gold, but were unable to find as much they expected.

The film was an entry at the Košice International Monthly Film Festival in Košice (Slovak Republic). Nirmal plans to make the 40-minute documentary into a feature film. Vazhiye and Thariode, the documentary, will be released next year.

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