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Lalit Rao

Mr. Lalit Rao is a film critic from Jaipur, India, FIPRESCI India member. He is currently writing a book on 25 best French films (1990-2015). Apart from ''World Cinema'', he is interested in chess, foreign languages, linguistics and philosophy. He is also the associate editor of the quarterly magazine "Cinematography Art". Mr. Lalit Rao has reported extensively on film festivals especially 'World Cinema' through more than 40 blogs and 8 videos channels. Cinema journal ‘Deep Focus’, and ‘Bangalore Film Society’ were represented by him as their correspondent in Paris for 2005-2006. He also presented a paper on Canadian cinema entitled ‘A brief overview of Francophone cinema in Québec’ during 20th International Conference on Canadian Studies, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, 27-29 February, 2004. Apart from writing 1000 reviews on IMDB, Mr. Lalit Rao has created KINEMA, a database with information on 25,000 films. His articles in French and English have appeared in Deep Focus, Kinoglaz, Objectif-Cinema, Sancho Does Asia and Séquences. Mr.Lalit Rao studied Master 2 at Université de Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris where he worked on ‘Distribution of Indian cinema’ in France. As a film critic, Mr. Lalit Rao has attended numerous film festivals in France and India.



‘‘The Tree full of parrots’’ (2021) directed by Jayaraj talks about compassion which is vanishing from society © Mr.Lalit Rao.

Indian film ‘‘The Tree full of parrots’’ (2021, Malayalam language) directed by Jayaraj talks about compassion which is vanishing from society © Mr.Lalit Rao (FIPRESCI) 27.05.2022 

Cinema as an art form is important in India as more than 1000 films are made annually. Indian cinema is one of those rare national cinemas which has challenged the hegemony of Hollywood. Cinema as an industry gives numerous opportunities to various indigenous film industries to make films which truly reflect the culture and traditions of one particular state. Kerala is one such state in India with the highest literacy rate where cinéphiles get numerous opportunities to appreciate and enjoy both art cinema (serious cinema with a meaningful story) and commercial films (frivolous films with ample action sequences, dances and songs). After ‘Maharashtra’ and ‘West Bengal’, Kerala is the third state in India which has struck a healthy balance between commercial and art cinemas.

Among the filmmakers who are currently active in Kerala, Jayaraj is considered to be a highly respectable figure. He is admired by critics as well as general public. He is one of those rare directors whose films have been included more than 10 times in Indian panorama section of International Film Festival of India, a FIAPF accredited film festival. Jayaraj’s films are known for their inventiveness and judicious choice of subject matters. Malayalam film ‘Hasyam’ (2021) was the last film of the famous Navarasa (nine emotions) series directed by Jayaraj. It was well received by film festival enthusiasts as well as cinéphiles from India and abroad. However, most intelligent filmmakers have always ensured that their loyal admirers shouldn’t be allowed to wait a long for new films as it is feared that they might switch sides from one camp to another. Keeping this adage in mind, Mr. Jayaraj quickly arrived on the scene with a new film ‘‘Niraye Thathakalulla Maram’’ (2021) [‘‘The Tree full of parrots’’]. It can be described as a candid relationship drama involving two people from different backgrounds whose primary concern is the respect for humanity. It also explores the bonding which is reinforced when a blind old man is fortuitously rescued by a young boy.

‘‘The Tree full of Parrots’’ begins with Poonjan, an eight years old boy who supports his family by fishing in the backwaters. One day, he rescues a lost blind man from falling in a hole near the boat jetty. The young boy Poonjan decides to help the old man but he can’t make substantial progress as the old man doesn’t remember anything about his home address. He merely repeats that his house is located opposite a ‘tree full of parrots’. This isn’t a proper landmark for anybody to have a definite idea about the location of the house. However, it is often said that where there is a will there is a way. Poonjan has a very strong will and he uses all his energy and wit to unite the blind old man with his family. However, things are not as easy as they appear on the surface. In the end, Poonjan and the old man are able to locate the house in question albeit with unexpected results.     

Concern for family, a major theme in almost all the films directed by Jayaraj is also very much evident in ‘‘The Tree full of Parrots’’. Poonjan has to look after his drunk father and the old man is being looked after rather unwillingly by his son and daughter-in-law. In recent times, the phenomenon of elderly parents being abandoned by their selfish young children has reached epic proportions. It wouldn’t be wrong to state that the entire Indian nation is under its pernicious influence. This negative tendency in Kerala has been very subtly depicted by Mr. Jayaraj as the old man’s son and daughter-in-law abandon him as his house has been sold to some rich people from Bangalore. With the house being sold, the woman asks her husband to abandon his blind father so that he should never return to disturb their newly found tranquility,  a shoddy happiness achieved using unscrupulous means.

Just like the great master of ‘world cinema’ Mr. Abbas Kiarostami from Iran, Mr. Jayaraj is also very resourceful as far as working with non-professionals is concerned. He states that while shooting ‘The Tree full of parrots’ no attempt was made from his side neither to guide nor to control both actors Master Adithyan (Poonjan) and Narayanan Cheupuzha (old man). They simply received dialogues from Mr.Jayaraj and what followed was their own fecund imagination which make this film a very poignant saga of survival in a cruel world.  Although it is not a preachy film, ‘The Tree full of parrots’ carries a positive message for audiences who watch it. It reminds people that life is full of unexpected surprises and it is only those who believe in human beings especially in their quality of doing good deeds are amply rewarded.

As far as cinema is concerned, the success of many films is hindered due to the weak middle segment. Fortunately, this is not the case with this film as Mr. Jayaraj has made the middle segment pretty strong by adding a lot of humor and suspense. For instance, one of the minor actors mocks China and its gift of Covid-19 exported all over the world by stating that it would solely affect Chinese people as they are able to eat anything. The suspense element has been highlighted by showing how the young boy and the old man are lost deep in the water as their boat has run out of petrol.

Compassion is the single overarching principle which drives ‘The Tree full of parrots’. It is solely compassion which improves wellness of the old man due to his meaningful interactions with the young boy. It pushes him to address all the cruelty and indifference which he witnesses. It also makes him bold as he decides to rescue the old man from the clutches of his evil son and daughter-in-law.

While talking to media persons during a PIB interaction held in Panaji during 52nd International Film of India 2021, director Jayaraj described his film ‘‘The Tree full of parrots’’ as a film about compassion which is vanishing from society. After its world premiere at 52nd International Film Festival of India 2021 where it was part of ‘Indian Panorama’ section, this film has been shown at International Film Festival of Kerala IFFK 2022, Imagine India International Film Festival 2022 held in Madrid, Spain. After enchanting cinéphiles in Spain, Mr.Jayaraj will head to Cannes as six regional films from India will be the focus of 75th Cannes Film Festival 2022. ‘‘The Tree full of parrots’’ is one of the six films chosen by Indian ministry of information and broadcasting for screening at the Cannes Film Market 2022. ‘The Tree full of parrots’ was screened in Cannes on 22.05.2022 as part of the Marché du Film segment. It is hoped that the universal message of compassion conveyed in this film will be well received by many more countries. ‘The Tree full of parrots’ has already won accolades. It deserves to win many more awards and also appreciated by discerning cinéphiles and cinema enthusiasts all over the world.

[1204 words]

‘‘Navaneeth Films’’ Presents

നിറയെ തത്തകൾ ഉള്ള മരം (The Tree Full of Parrots) [2021]

Directed by : Jayaraj.

Produced by : Vinu.R.Nath.

Dialogues by : Jayaraj.

Story by : Jayaraj.

Screenplay by : Jayaraj.

DOP : Shinoob.T.Chacko.

Cast : Master Adithyan, Narayanan Cherupazhashy.

Lyrics by : Vayalar Ramavarma, P.P.Ramachandran, C.J.Kuttappan.

Music by : L.P.R. Varma, Kannan Shri.

Editing by : Vipin Mannoor.

Sound Design : Vinod.P. Shivaram.

Assistant Directors : Darsh Pisharady, Dhanu Jayaraj.




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About Lalit Rao

RAO Lalit

Mr. Lalit Rao (member-FIPRESCI) writes for this website on a regular basis as a film critic publishing reviews on his profile

In February 2017, he participated as jury member during  9th Bangalore International Film Festival 2017.

In 2014, he attended 19th International Film Festival of Kerala 2014 as a member of film critics’ jury.

As a film critic, Mr.Lalit Rao has attended film festivals in India as well as France namely International Film Festival of India (IFFI), International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), Festival International de Films de Femmes de Créteil, Paris : Cinéma du Réel-Festival International de films documentaires, Est-ce ainsi que les hommes vivent? Saint-Denis, Rencontres Internationales du Cinéma de Patrimoine, Vincennes & Festival International des Cinémas d'Asie, Vesoul. 


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