1971-1980ArthouseFantasyGovindan AravindanIndia

Govindan Aravindan – Kummatty AKA The Bogeyman (1979)


Kummatty is adapted from a Central Kerala folk tale about a partly mythic and partly real magician called Kummatty. Kummatty travels from place to place and entertain children with dancing, singing and performing magic. At one such performance at a village, Kummatty turns a group of children into animals. But one boy, who was changed into a dog, is chased away and misses the moment Kummatty changed the children back to their human form. The dog-boy has to wait a year until Kummatty returns to the village to get back his human form. Aravindan claimed Kummatty to be his personal favourite film. Kummatty won the State award for best children’s film.

Aravindan on Kummatty:

You have directed KUMMATTY as a children’s film. Can we really categorise it as such?

Yes I think we can. What I have come to know is that the children who saw the film liked it. This film was appreciated in Japan and also screened in Channel 4 of BBC. Due to a lack of proper distribution system, this film could not be shown properly in India.

While you were shooting for this film, did you give any special attention to the structure and details keeping in mind that it is oriented towards children?

I have adopted a narrative style, which might interest the children and kept a positive ending. The story is like a folklore, which the children can easily identify with. The music and landscapes were chosen specially, keeping children in mind.

Can you tell us a little about KUMMATTY?

KUMMATTY arrives like the seasons. He represents spring. He comes in fact in spring when the rain is over and the plants are green and in bloom. KUMMATIY is part of that Nature.

Yes, in the film KUMMATTY seems to emerge from Nature…

KUMMATTY comes alive on to the screen from a vanishing point and disappears into a dissolve. In a sense therefore, he comes back from where he disappeared. The landscape in these scenes is also special.

Why is that?

Though the landscape is that of Kerala, in KUMMATTY it is not ‘a typical’ landscape. It has extensive vacant land with a few trees here and there; very few houses and little human habitation; people are very simple. I thought the lonely lanes and the solitude of the landscape will contribute to the film. We cannot say that a KUMMATTY is coming to a familiar place where there are a lot of people. For this story we needed a functional backdrop. What is unusual in our context is a commonplace occurrence in film. That is to say we constructed a reality out of the unreal. For example the boy Chintan transforms into a dog but he continues to live in his house. He is still treated as a son.

The dog Chintan loses his way as he wanders and bumps into a wealthy family.

Yes, and they send him off from there saying he has no pedigree. From there he returns home. In the beginning he is treated like a son. After sometime the family accepts it as a fact that he is ‘transformed’ into a dog. His friends see him on their way to school. At this moment he has communication only with the bird in the cage, which responds to the sounds he produces. This is also the time he becomes aware of ‘bondage’. As soon as he recovers his human form he releases the bird from the cage. You should also remember that he used to hurt this bird earlier. In his own experience of bondage he understood the bondage of the ‘Other’. This experience redefines his ideas and attitudes.

How did you design KUMMATTY?

I discussed the costume of KUMMATTY with the artist Namboodiri. I knew the actor Ravunni earlier.

There is a scene in the film, where KUMMATTY removes his costume beard for a shave?

KUMMATTY’s is a dual persona. A real personality and an assumed one. If he is not this he will remain just as an idea. And if he remains as a concept he will not fit into the essence of the story. I wanted to show that apart from his supernatural image he is also real. Through the masks he is bringing, I have related him to the animal forms as well. I introduced the scene of ‘shaving’ to reveal these characteristics of KUMMATTY. His actual personality is located between myth and reality and yet there is no fantasy in it at all. People sometimes call him a thief. I have also introduced in the film, elements of magic and black art in the beginning before the arrival of KUMMATTY. The doctor in this film is also a magician. According to the doctor’s diagnosis, the woman with the fits (to whom he is administering medicine) is possessed. It has to be treated with black art. In fact the children follow the doctor to the house of the sick woman. The idea is that children are growing up in an atmosphere where KUMMATTY will not be an unusual guest.

Is not the pace and rhythm of KUMMATTY slow?

A fast pace will not suit this story. It has to have an organic movement and rhythm of its own.

It is said in the handout of KUMMATTY that this is the story of rebirths?!

Well, there is not anything like that in the film. The suggestion in the handout was unnecessary. Some such comment has appeared in the handout of KANCHANA SEETA also…


Subtitles:English (Hardcoded)

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