The screening of a Malayalam documentary called Oru Chayakkadakkarante Mann Ki Bath had to be cancelled at the Kerala Club in New Delhi, following threats by the right wing. It was later screened at a private gathering organised by the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ).
The documentary is about the plight of a septuagenarian tea vendor in Kollam, following demonetisation. When demonetisation happened, Yahiya – the tea vendor -- shaved half his head and on the first anniversary, half his moustache too, as a sign of protest.
“It was supposed to be screened on September 23, along with a speech by senior journalist Sukumar Muralidharan, on the financial crisis. The event was organised by the Clone Cinema Alternative, a group formed by Delhi Malayalis, in association with the Kerala Club. News about the event came on the media and workers of the RSS-BJP said that they would not allow the screening,” says Sanu Kammil, the director of the documentary, who is also a journalist from Kollam.
“The Kerala Club which often screens Malayalam movies and holds discussions too had to cancel the screening of the film. When the story appeared on the media, A Sampath, Kerala’s special representative in New Delhi, extended support to hold the private screening,” Sanu adds.
Sanu has seen Yahiya, the tea vendor in Kollam, adopting unique ways of protesting against the troubles he has been through. Once, after a policeman beat him up for not wearing his lungi loose while he was pushing his mobile thattukada, Yahiya switched to wearing nighties of women, so he didn’t have to tie it loose no matter who showed up, or however important that person was.
Yahiya had to go to work in Saudi Arabia in slave-like conditions to get his daughters married off and when he came back to his homeland, began a thattukada (roadside shop). After being robbed one day, he began burying all his savings in little pits on the ground. About Rs.23,000 was buried like this when November 8, 2016 came and the note ban was announced. Yahiya quickly unburied his notes and went to stand in a queue before a bank. For two long days he stood. But at the end of the second day, he fainted. He was old and unwell.
Dejected, he went with his money to the stove of his thattukada and burnt them all. He shaved half of his hair and declared it would be left like that till Narendra Modi’s government fell. On the first anniversary of demonetisation, he shaved half of his moustache too. Let Modi go, he’d say, and then he will grow them back.