Vipin Vijay

Arts Research and Documentation
1999-2000

Grant Period: Over two years

Vipin Vijay holds a degree in Film Direction & Screenplay writing from Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute of India. He has made several documentaries, short and promotional films.

Traditional ritual performance, with its powerful, evocative images, its arresting elements of drama, is a continuing source of fascination and intrigue. India is home to an old and variegated tradition of divination that is an article of faith for believers and an object of scholarly attention and study. Even so, the Komaram or the Velichappadu – an oracle of the Hindu tradition in Kerala – is not much known outside the state.

Growing up in Kozhikode, Kerala, Vipin Vijay has been enchanted by the banal and subliminal qualities of everyday religion since childhood. In his native village, for instance, the Banyan tree in the Bhagwati temple complex was a sacred space: “People would knot thread onto the bark of the tree to remind Devi of their wishes,” he says. But it was also a site for mundane activities. “Sitting on a concrete slab at the base of the tree, villagers would play cards, occasionally swearing and abusing Devi for the loss of a game.”

Vipin’s interest in Kerala’s oracular tradition is tied to his family’s history. His grandfather was a practicing oracle in Kannur district before he became a teacher, Vipin recalls being captivated by his nostalgic recollections of his earlier vocation. A chance reading of his grandfather’s dairies, which records observations of his great grandfather’s performances, further strengthened his resolve to understand the experience of the oracle.

Not surprisingly, Vipin views his film ‘Kshurasya Dhara’ partly as an act of remembrance, a means to revisit his “childhood heroes from the professional viewpoint of a documentary filmmaker.” He filmed the performances by the oracles in the annual temple festival at Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasargod, investigating the religious significance of the act while simultaneously interrogating ritual practice.

Vipin finds that all too often “documentaries disguise the separateness of sound and visual elements to emphasize the naturalness of the film’s content…and to conceal the process of producing meaning.”

The film has been screened extensively, and has been well received. It has also received many awards.