South Asian Projects
Mind Your Language
Director’s Name: Anitha Gomathy, India
An indigenous man compiles a dialect dictionary and tries to publish it while he loses his all balance in that journey. This inter-woven documentary dealt with present tribal life too.
Kandamala Ramachandran (47) is probably the only one Indian tribe who has compiled a dictionary of five tribal dialects at a time, from within the indigenous community. Despite no formal education required for a lexicographer or no fixed funding, he collected around 6,000 words (2000 pages) from five Dravidian tribal dialects.
This tribal linguist is a farmer who belongs to the Kuruma tribe of Wayanad District, Kerala, South India, and also a tribal promoter by profession. He has spent almost one and half decades travelling around the tribal villages of Kerala to collect the words to compile his dictionary. Ramachandran hopes that his efforts will help to protect these tribal dialects from extinction and be helpful for future generations.
Now, he desires to publish to unify his whole community. He had been sending so many letters, CDs and dictionary files to different Govt. departments for this purpose. He contacts several official bodies for getting it published, where he gets a rejection only. The stringent laws of bureaucracy do not recognize the Ramachandran’s authenticity and credibility enough to create such a great work.
Being a tribal promoter, Ramachandran’s routine is to check the wellbeing of 223 tribal settlements. His wife Geetha, is a tribal school teacher in their village for 50 students. While both the characters make their daily journeys (both internal and external), the camera shows us the real world of the rapidly-disappearing indigenous cultures, their roots, beliefs and their internal conflicts in an interwoven way.
We see Geetha fights her best to save her personal and career life though she has emotional, financial and physical insecurities. She dreams of having her own personal space for some time.
Ramachandran is also an emerging creative writer and ardent film aspirant. His never-ending endeavours for getting social and personal acceptance will be possible only when the dictionary is out. He waits for it. Nothing happens.
As a new development, Ramachandran lost his job as a result of the Government’s new policy. Due to his everyday struggles, pressures and constant failures, he embraces with tantrums and depression which leads him to become an alcoholic and eventually he loses his balance and mental peace.
Geetha’s profession is not permanent either. Her father became terminally ill too due to an accident which forced her to shuttle to her ancestral home from time to time and compels her to carry out all financial responsibilities.
The subject of this film is very universal and unique. Ramachandran, as the main character of the film, is a normal person who goes through many complexities in his daily life. His character is not white or black, or fully grey. So, any common man can connect with him.
Like my protagonist Ramachandran, I am also dealing with languages as a language professional. So, I have got a special interest in these tribal language dialects too.
United Nations is celebrating 2023-2033 as the decade for saving indigenous languages. In that context, this story is very important.
Two indigenous languages are dying every month. With the death of languages, the indigenous people who speak them lose a significant part of their identity. Four in 10 indigenous languages are at risk of disappearing, warn UN human rights experts.
When a language dies, we lose cultures, entire civilizations, but also, we lose people. The situation in India is alarming. India may have lost 220 languages since 1961.
The discrimination towards the minorities and marginalized people should be removed from the society and bureaucracy.
The Government has to be more lenient towards the minorities when they come across the people’s complexities like Ramachandran’s. Laws should not be placed for laws sake; it should be placed for humans’ sake. Rules and guidelines should be created according to a humanitarian way only.
Also, all of us are taken our native languages as granted, we won’t care anything. We have to do something to preserve the uniqueness of our languages. Then, it is going to help our next generation. We have to start taking measures for that, because we are losing 2 languages in every month. Without communication we cannot do anything. So, we have to treat our languages in a considerable way.
This character – driven empathetic documentary starts with the routine of the character. Ramachandran lives in Pulpally near the forest. The panoramic beauty of the place would be registering in the film. As he is working as a tribal promoter, the intermingling scenes of the tribal settlement can be shown. Then, we try to show the complexities of his life. Those aspects will add to the film’s grammar in an observational intimate style.
Unlike other tribes, Ramachandran is also a voracious reader and an emerging writer. This has to be shown through visual materials, mainly through close shots (his real time writing poems and fiction). Communication between the tribes using the dialects will be filmed. Tribes’ chats will be recorded in a candid way via hand held movements in an observatory style.
Ramachandran makes calls to the different offices who promised to publish his dictionary. As it is pandemic time, he can make calls only. We have shot it closely. But, in the next schedule we will record his in-person meeting with those officials when the camera follows. He will have an interview with the authorities. We will take the response shots from characters and a few others.
Being an ardent fan of Tamil actor Kamal Haasan, he sings his film songs very well. The film will use some Kamal Haasan’s music videos with Ramachandran’s singing for that. The self-composed songs of Ramachandran will be rendered by him on the backdrop of Kabani River. There he sits on the top of a rock (which is his favourite place) usually. Top angles will be used here. Aerial shots circling in 360 degrees will give an idea of the dimension of the place to the viewer along with its celestial beauty.
The other character of the film is Geetha (a tribal lady), Ramachandran’s wife who works as a teacher for the nearby tribal study centre under district Tribal Department. The students- teacher interactions and other minor activities will be recorded mainly with close shots.
On the contrary, Ramachandran’s stressful personal life gives him suicidal tendency; he gives pressure for his co-workers too, and family too. His wife Geetha says; “I sometimes yearn to sit alone for a long day and relax”. An interview will be there to recapture her inner thoughts.
This film will switch between the observatory and participatory cinematic representations along with very minimal interviews. It is a double layered somewhat poetic documentary in a slow pace and rhythm. One layer is about his self – journey publishing his dictionary; another is personal and work life. It is interwoven with the present-day tribal life scenario.
The film follows the two worlds of Ramachandran, first, the dynamic inner world; both physical and psychological. As a creative person, he constantly talks about his dreams, publishing of his dictionary, his personal heroic stories, his affinity towards literature, and his alternate reality of daily life, and how his alcoholism affects both the world.
The visual images build through the interactions of the protagonist with his surroundings and events. The pacing is unhurried, rhythmic, and stays with the characters. The key characters are seen at home, doing their daily activities, interacting with their friends and families and with the environment around them. The camera follows Ramachandran’s works at the tribal settlements during the pandemic. Wide angle shots of his works at his own agricultural field, doing his errands, feeding pigs etc will be there…
The other character Geetha, Ramachandran’s wife works as a teacher for the nearby tribal study center. Her interactions with students, their activities in the classroom such as tapping on their study table in a rhythmic way, their plays, and their way back to home; etc will be documented with mixed angles.
The landscape of Wayanad is captured with long, static shots to transport the audience to the rich biodiversity of dense canopied forests, sprawling grasslands, and the variety of birds and wildlife. These all will be later joined with the tribal tunes of particular musical instruments.
Sound Design and Music
The film would include mainly atmospheric sounds such as the early morning forest ambience featuring the sounds of birds, insects, and frogs on rugged, remote Wayanad hills and eco region along with the interior of his home. The sound of people and other animals such as elephants, buffaloes, pigs, wild dogs, deers, cats, etc can be heard.
Close shots of Subject’s works, his leg movement, hand movement, eye movement, and other actions will be recorded. We don’t need any loud noisy music for the film, but minimal soft music only. The music can be done with any of the ancient Adivasi / tribal instruments. A melting BGM will create interpret the helplessness and pain of the protagonist. Music and sound would be done in Dolby Atmos.
Anitha is a freelance journalist, professional translator, and interpreter. She is a debut director and alumni of Satyajit Ray Film and TV Institute, Kolkata (under the I&B Ministry of India) and she specialized in Media Management.
She has Volunteered DocedgeKolkata, 2019 and in New Frontier Associate, Sun Dance Film Festival, 2022.
She received LET’SDOC FELLOWSHIP PROGRAMME in 2020 (http://www.docresi.org/letsdoc-2020-selection.aspx).
She was an Observer in DocedgeKolkata 2021 (http://www.docresi.org/selected-project-DocedgeKolkata-2021.aspx) and in DhakaDocLab 2021 (https://www.dhakadoclab.org/selected-project-observer-2021/). She has volunteered –
Currently, she has got selected as a participant in the 10th edition of Interaction: Doc Workshop of IFC Filmart in Požega (Serbia).
IFFR- 10000 Euro- Applied
Doha Institute 25,000 USD- Applied
Catapult -10,000 Euro Applied
Hot Docs CrossCurrents Doc Funds– 30,000 CAD Applied
Ford Foundation- 15,000 USD = Applied
National Geographic- Planning to Apply
Doc Society – Planning to Apply
‘mind your language” budget summary
Transaction in USD
Total ‘above the line’ costs – 31590
Production costs: sub-total – 32990
Unit salaries :sub-total -5820
Stock, processing and transfers – sub-total – 7700
Travel & transport – sub – total – 23200
Accommodation, living, catering – 5760
Insurances – sub total – 2400
Miscellaneous – 1077
Total post-production costs – 34415
Indirect costs – 3348
Contingency – 6500
Tax – 7500
Delivery requirements- 3800
Total distribution budget – 4700
Sub total – 170,800 usd
My first schedule is finished now. The production of pending schedules will be start in September 2022. I may have 3-4 schedules to go. I am planning to complete it within two years. By November 1, 2025, I am planning to have a final cut.
Visual Material’s Link:
Password – anu1234