When American filmmaker Robert Zemeckis made his famous film on time travel back in the 1980s, there was so much to tell that he ended up making a trilogy with the Back to the Future series. But then 35 years later, a Malayalam short filmmaker needed barely 10 minutes to tell another tale of time travel.
Makaram 20, 1194 is a short fiction written and directed by Shyam Narayanan TK which premiered five days ago on YouTube. The title refers to a date in the Malayalam calendar which in Gregorian becomes February 3, 2019.
The film begins with a mischievous little boy playing with his toy car in the ancestral home. The year is 1948 and there are enough props to tell you this – the grandfather clock chiming in the background, the ‘naalukettu’ structure of big old houses, the clothes worn by the child and his relatives. The boy – Kunchunni -- seems to have a slightly destructive streak in him, taking the porcelain vessels of his aunt, crashing them on the ground and then laughing about it. The aunt and uncle – a young couple speaking in northern Malayalam dialect – are looking after the kid when the parents are away, and seem aptly annoyed with the child’s doings.
The uncle is shown as a well-read man, bringing books and magazines (linked to the theme of the film) and an English newspaper with him. He comments on one of the magazine articles, “There is a write-up by a young person called VN Thekkeppattu. It’s very good and he has a good future,” he says. VN Thekkeppattu was the pen name that legendary writer MT Vasudevan Nair used for his earlier works, when he was a lad of 15.
Perhaps the filmmaker wants to explain how a random couple in an old house in Thrissur could have the scientific knowledge to do time travel. The preparations they make for the process are also adorably funny.
The film grips you with its unusual setting and the suspense is created by the slow build-up on what this couple would do. It begins with the uncle’s line: “It’s only the small Kunchunni that we can’t punish right?”
Anusree Madhavan and Vineeth Vasudevan play the couple and Tharun Parameswaran plays the child.
Watch to find out how the time travel concept plays out: