Malayali filmmaker Don Palathara is overjoyed to make it to BAFTA's Breakthrough list

Don Palathara says he is happy that BAFTA recognises unique movies. Photo | Special arrangement

Malayali filmmaker Don Palathara who is known for his unique take on life in films, which are mostly in monochromatic hue is among the 10 Indians to join this year’s BAFTA's Breakthrough cohort. The list includes ‘Rocket Boys’ writer Abhay Koranne, ‘An Insignificant Man’ editor Abhinav Tyagi Soni writer Kislay, ‘Some Stories Around Witches’ director Lipika Singh Darai, ‘Secrets of the Elephants’ cinematographer Pooja Rajkumar Rathod and ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’ sound editor Sanal George. The filmmaker known for movies like ‘Shavam’ and his recently released movie ‘Family’, shares his happiness in making it to the Breakthrough list India for his earlier work 'Joyful Mystery'.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the honour and what it signifies?
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Breakthrough, in partnership with Netflix, is aimed at identifying creative talents from UK, USA and India and giving them access to professional training and coaching, among others. This year, a total of 42 artists have been selected, of whom 10 are Indians. Receiving the BAFTA Breakthrough Award is a huge recognition and encouragement for me as a filmmaker. I am grateful to them for recognising the value of such unique stories and movies, especially from a state that produces several movies every year. Hopefully this recognition will help me attain bigger heights in my journey as a filmmaker.

Your work 'Joyful Mystery' received acclaim for its unique approach to a couple's relationship. When you look back, is that the most satisfying work so far?
‘Joyful Mystery’ is a movie that explores the relationship of two lovers in the backdrop of Covid. The film received very good response across the country. It was also screened in some prestigious festivals. Looking back, you recognise flaws and think how it could have been improved. However, ‘Joyful Myster’ is a very personal work and I am glad I was able to work with great actors like Rima and Jeet. I doubt if any movie can be called ‘favorite’. As someone who is passionate about continuing to make films, I like to think that I will make better films in the future.

Your latest work ‘Family’ has an interesting storyline. What inspired you to do such a film?
The complexities of family relationships, the prominence of people in family and religious spaces, and how they function as part of a larger social machinery are the backbone of ‘Family’. It has a lot to do with my own childhood and the people involved in it. Although the film is set in Idukki 15 or 20 years ago, the story and characters are still relevant today. The film is designed like a puzzle and it is upto the audience to find the answer.

Family’ clearly falls in the category of movies which have a feminist approach
While I personally have no interest in viewing this film in terms of any one school of thought, the viewer is certainly free to make such a reading. I think my job is to present a number of questions in the form of a film and to make the audience find the answer rather than presenting a verdict.

10 Indians have made it to the BAFTA Breakthrough India list. Photo | BAFTA Breakthrough India

How important are such socially relevant films in our industry today? How is the acceptance to these kind of movies?
I am someone who thinks there is grave danger in saying a movie should be given more attention because of the topic it discusses. This would imply that watching films are charity work. A film's value lies in how it discusses a subject rather than the subject it discusses. Rather than Malayalam filmmakers, including myself, telling how people how to view films, I think it is important we pay more attention to making good films. There is no dearth of films that discuss socially relevant issues in our country. However, there is an issue in the way it is presented.

What inspires you to explore human relationships in depth?
Depth is a very relative term. When we are children, every child is curious about everything. As people grow older, we either become less curious or have several other obstacles to overcome. Although, my style of approaching life and its myriad questions may have changed, I am still inquisitive about a lot of things.

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