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aka The Circus Tent 1978 129’ b&w Malayalam d/s G. Aravindan p K. Ravindranathan Nair pc General Pics lyr Kavalam Narayana Panicker c Shaji N. Karun m M.G. Radhakrishnan lp Gopi, Venu, Sriraman, Jalaja, members of the Great Chitra Circus

Aravindan’s finest b&w film chronicles three days with a circus in a small town in Kerala. A series of high-angle shots, as the circus drives into its new location, introduce us to the village. Several sequences use a remarkable quasi-documentary effect combined with minutely choreographed action e.g. the sunset as the manager (Gopi) directs the raising of the big top. The episodic film tells of a soldier who befriends the circus strong man in a toddy bar and shows how the bizarre characters from the circus including the dwarf merge with the local populace. Much of the imagery is genuinely poetic, accompanied by some remarkable b&w work by Shaji, sustained by a narrative that consistently replaces conventional storytelling with a sense of the cultural geography of the village. The film’s documentary style, including direct address to camera, is in sharp contrast with Aravindan’s previous feature, Kanchana Seeta (1977), also shot by Shaji, although the same reverence for nature animates both works.