Review: ‘Guardians of the Earth’

Grounded in the economic realities of the region, "Guardians of the Earth" is an intimate, overlong but worthwhile drama set in a small Keralan village whose traditional livelihood is under threat.

Grounded in the economic realities of the region, “Guardians of the Earth” is an intimate, overlong but worthwhile drama set in a small Keralan village whose traditional livelihood is under threat. First feature by Subrahmaniam Santakumar, whose background is in theater and TV docus, adds little new to the rural Indian canon but should make the fest rounds and notch some specialized TV sales.

The pottery business in Kumbhara Kota is threatened by the growing popularity of modern cooking implements. Scripter/co-director Viju Varma uses this as background for the story of Alagiri (Manikandan, very good), a good-hearted but unconventional guy who shares his home with a string of women, chucking them out when they get too possessive. Latest is homely Sita (Beena Antony), who soon makes way for a more coquettish femme who knows how to flatter the local moneylender. Meanwhile, Alagiri’s drunken neighbor (Viplavam Balan) is in dire straits after diversifying from pots into statuary. Characters are all sharply drawn, and the rhythms of village life acutely sketched (some of the women are turning to nocturnal prostitution), but at almost two hours the material is over-stretched dramatically.

Guardians of the Earth

India

Production

A Hrishikesh Films production, in association with South Bank Vista. (International sales: Hrishikesh, Cochin, India.) Produced by K. Retnakumari. Directed by Subrahmaniam Santakumar. Co-director, Viju Varma. Screenplay, Varma.

Crew

Camera (color), Praveen Panicker; editors, Ajith Kumar, Vijaya Kumar; music, Madhu Dev; production designer, G. Narendranath; art directors, Disney Venu, Samkotty Pattomkary; costumes, Shibu Chelakkara. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 3, 2001. Original title: Mankolangal. Running time: 114 MIN.

With

Manikandan, Beena Antony, Viplavam Balan, Seema G. Nair, P.J. Unnikrishnan, Mahima.
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