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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Documentary "The Red Box" is part of the line-up at the Delhi Shorts International Festival, which begins on November 6

KOTTAYAM, October 26, 2016

Chemanna Petti (The Red Box), a short film based on a newspaper report, has been selected for this year’s Delhi Shorts International Film Festival. The fifth edition of the festival begins on November 6.

The 13.5-minute documentary by Pius Scaria Pottenkulam, looking at the changing face of the Indian postal system through the life of a lonely postal woman manning a one-of-a-kind post office in the country, is based on a report ‘mail @Vembanad PO’ that appeared in The Hindu on August 21, 2007. The report tells the story of Vembanad Kayal Post Office, Pin 688006, perhaps the only one that covers a lake, and the Extra Department (ED) clerk V.P. Seethamani, who dons many roles at this post office.

The documentary tells its story in three segments, one taking a nostalgic look at the old days when letters were part of a culture: the long wait for the letters informing of an employment offer and those from loved ones from far-off lands.

Enduring symbol

The Red Box is always a symbol of love, says the director. The second segment speaks of the history of communication and the postal system.

The final segment talks about the present situation, the fall of the good old post offices because of a decline in letter-writing and the arrival of countless modes of communication that have made institutions such as the Vembanad Kayal PO look like fossils. The segment pans through the life of Seethamani, who has been working as an ED clerk for 27 years.

From nearly 5,000 letters a day in its heyday, the traffic has come down to not more than 150 letters a day at the post office, most of them pensions, she says.

The film concludes with a long-cherished dream of Seethamani, who wants to “don a government uniform” before she retires.
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