Directed by Ronnie Manuel Joseph and written by R Aneesh, Padakkam, which literally translates to cracker, is a remarkably well-shot film. Cinematographer Bilu Tom Mathew has juxtaposed the loneliness of its protagonists with the placidity of small towns so well that that frames alone may make you pause in wonder. But that’s hardly the only aspect of this Malayalam short film that’s worth the watch.
Padakkam begins by showing us the daily rituals of a mother, who has to keep her toddler entertained, while also finishing her household chores. This homely picture is cut short by a loud explosion which we are told is from an accident at a cracker factory. The boy’s father has suffered severe burns and is shown bedridden, while it is implied that his mother is no more.
The toddler we saw in the first few seconds of the film has now grown up into a young boy of about eight or nine. And a lonely one at that. He has no memories of what his mother was like, save what his father has told him – that she had beautiful, thick hair. What he does remember is that she used make olapanthu (ball made of coconut leaves) for him. Armed with that meagre knowledge he hunts for his mother – or at least a shadow of her.
Actress Kani Kusruti gives a seasoned performance as she gives us a glimpse into her own lonely existence. While it is never expressed in so many words, it is implied that Kani’s character is a prostitute who lives with an elderly woman in a tiny one-room house. The boy, who has been told that she has ‘to be paid for her time’, follows her around and offers her money. We are never explicitly told what makes him think that she’s his mother, but perhaps she’s not the only one he’s ever followed.
She takes him back to her place and through the child’s innocent answers understand the yearning he feels to feel the warmth of a mother’s love. What happens next? You’ll have to watch: