‘Theeyude Kavalkaran’, a docu-fiction film by the Kerala Forests and Wildlife Department, offers a glimpse into the lives of the ancient Muthuvan tribe of the Western Ghats
Every forest is a repository of stories that are handed down generations. The tribal communities still hold on to these stories and beliefs, which form the very foundation of their lives.
‘Theeyude Kavalkaran’ (The Guardian of Fire), a docu-fiction film presented by the Kerala Forests and Wildlife Department, released on YouTube recently, explores one such story. It follows an elderly Muthuvan, who is believed to be the keeper of a fire, which sustains the tribe. Muthuvans are considered to be one of the earliest inhabitants of the Western Ghats.
Believed to have migrated from Tamil Nadu and settled in the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats a thousand years ago, the Muthuvans are known to be reclusive. Modern history describe them as descendants of a group of people who migrated from the African continent 55,000 years ago.
Featuring Malayalam film screenwriter and director Lal Jose, the film offers a peek into the lives of the tribe. Lal Jose goes in search of Krishnan Muthuvan, who tells him about his tribe’s inseparable link to the forest. “There are many stories about us — how we came from the Kannaki temple in Tamil Nadu, how we came from the earth’s belly — but the fire continues to blaze in each Muthuvan’s heart,” Krishnan tells Lal Jose in the film.
This first-of-its-kind initiative by the Forest Department is aimed at creating awareness about Kerala’s diverse landscape, its people and its colourful cultural tapestry, says Suhyb PJ, District Forest Officer, Mankulam, who was part of the project. “The forest is not just about its trees and its wildlife. It speaks to us through its people too,” he says, “While on treks through the forest, we often rely on guides, who are part of tribal communities. While we break for the night, sitting around bonfires, they tell us intriguing stories, myths and folklore. We wanted this to reach the common man so they learn about the forest and its people and appreciate it more.
Funded by the Forest Development Agency (FDA) and the State Forest Development Agency (SFDA), along with the UN’s India Highrange Mountain Landcape Project, the film has been directed by Raju K Francis and scripted by Pramod G Krishnan. The team hopes to make more such films to take stories from the heart of the forest to general audiences.
The film can be watched on YouTube.