Shyamaprasad: ‘Kasiminte Kadal’ is a bitter-sweet tale of growing up

Based on novelist Anees Salim’s ‘The Small-Town Sea’, the film, says the director, is his take on the book set in Kerala

A sea of emotions engulf viewers as film director Shyamaprasad evocatively adapts Anees Salim’s novel The Small-Town Sea for the big screen as Kasiminte Kadal (Kasim’s Sea). Kasim’s loneliness tugs at the heart even as his child-like joys evokes nostalgia.

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Reputed for his ability to capture the dynamics of interpersonal relationships on screen, Shyamaprasad transcreates literary worlds to the screen without losing the essence of the work. He wanted to adapt The Small-Town Sea as a movie as soon as he read the book, which is about love, loss and longing as seen through the eyes of a teenager. Anees agreed to the adaptation of his novel for a film. But for some minor clarifications the director wanted from the author, the director was given a free hand in writing the screenplay.

Shyamaprasad during the shooting of ‘Kasiminte Kadal’, an adaptation of Anees Salim’s novel ‘The Small-Town Sea’ | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

In a director’s note about the film, Shyamaprasad states: “To me, Kasim’s tale is a bittersweet one — of growing up, dealing with bereavement, getting lost and finding one’s way back home. I wanted the film to be a simple narrative of hidden joys and tender sadness….Though our stories might not always save us, most of us sit under their shade, looking at the sea, listening to its roar, which is sometimes sweet and music to us, waiting for its next inevitable swell.”

The director says the book’s protagonist reminded him of Satyajit Ray’s Appu in Pather Pachali and his travails but in a different setting. As Kasim’s father Salim uproots the family to spend his last days in Varkala, Kasim (Tashi Shamdat) discovers new joys and friends even though he hankers for their previous life in Kochi.

Adapting a literary work

“As soon as a literary work is taken up for a film adaptation, it becomes the director’s perspective. In this case, I have given a name to the nameless protagonist of the book and also set it in the beachside town of Varkala, although the author has not named the place anywhere in his book. Kasim is only 11 years in the film,” says Shyam.

A still from Shyamaprasad’s ‘Kasiminte Kadal’, an adaptation of Anees Salim’s novel ‘The Small-Town Sea’ | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

As Shyamaprasad was shooting in sync sound, he decided to cast local residents to get the dialect right. But for Harish Uthaman, who plays Salim, most of the other characters, including Kasim’s friend Bilal (enacted by Niranjan), who won the Kerala State Film Award for the best child actor, were cast after extensive auditions. “We held workshops for people to familiarise themselves with the camera and sync sound. Casting director Saji Thulasidas, an alumnus of the School of Drama, is from Varkala and helped us in finding the right people.”

Finding the location that resembled the one in the book proved to be difficult and the heavy rain had eroded the cliff on which some of the shooting had been done. “It proved to be a blessing in disguise. During the erosion, one of the smaller cliffs had crumbled in the middle and we depicted that as the entrance to the ‘secret beach’ in the book,” says Shyamaprasad.

Harish Uthaman in a still from Shyamaprasad’s ‘Kasiminte Kadal’, an adaptation of Anees Salim’s novel ‘The Small-Town Sea’ | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Like his previous film Oru Njayarazhcha, Shyamaprasad has composed the background score of Kasiminte Kadal.

Produced by TS Jayakumar and Gireesh Uthaman along with co-producers Manoj Narayan (also the cinematographer) and Shyamaprasad, Kasiminte Kadal is also an ode to the joys and difficulties of growing up in a small town where everyone knows each other and has an opinion about someone else’s life.

Sea of emotions

How far is Kasiminte Kadal from Ore Kadal (2007)? “Not very far. It is the same sea where the waves can be calm or tempestuous. It can also symbolise the mind, always in motion, moving with the swell and ebb of our lives.”

Surprisingly, this film, rooted in the culture of Kerala, was left out of the International Film Festival of Kerala. The director feels that stories that do not have an overt political statement to make on contemporary subjects or is not laced with humour are losing their space in cinemas. “Movies on existentialism and the simple joys of life don’t seem to be valued. We must understand that some of Indian cinema’s classics that have stood the test of time did not always have a loud, obvious political theme. Instead, they showed vignettes of life in India which also made political statements.”

Shyamaprasad during the shooting of ‘Kasiminte Kadal’, an adaptation of Anees Salim’s novel ‘The Small-Town Sea’ | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

He feel that cinema, as a medium of art, must reflect the joys and sorrows of life, in addition to protests and political statements.

The director is currently working on the post production of a film based on littérateur MT Vasudevan Nair’s short story ‘Kazhcha’, starring Parvathy Thiruvothu and Kalamandalam Saraswathi, MT’s wife. ‘Kazhcha’ will be a part of a 10-part featurettes directed by reputed directors in Malayalam cinema, like Santosh Sivan, Jayaraj, Priyadarsan and Lijo Jose Pellissery for Netflix.

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