Poopal

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Our story follows the lives of three women, Leela the mother and her two daughters Neethu and Neeli. They live in a small village in South India called nair ambalam, a place renowned for its fishermen and fisherwomen.

Leela ran away with her daughters because of unbearable abuse from her alcoholic husband and moved into a small rented house bearing the responsibility of her children alone. Her main source of income is fish trapping.

Our story starts with a huge festival happening at the local church. At the same time somewhere in the village we see Leela helping another woman give birth. It is one of the many small jobs she does to try to sustain the family. At the same time at their rented house, the youngest daughter is surprised to see their landlord walking in drunk demanding they pay their rent for the last 3 months immediately. Neethi calls her mother who tells her to tell the landlord that she will pay the money in 3 days as it is almost time for the fish to be harvested. The landlord warns the little girl and walks away.

We follow him home where he is questioned by his wife about where he had gone midway through the festival. As he replies, she insults him for being incapable both as a husband and as a man and taunts him. There is a shot of 4 eyes watching and hearing the conversations of the landlord and the wife. They are the neighbors, who make their perspectives on this. Elsewhere we can see the youngest daughter, swimming in the lake watching the sky and we reveal she is being watched by a group of men from the village. She leaves the lake and walks home.

The mother is seen hurriedly walking back home to her two children. It is extremely dark outside and she struggles to find footing through the mud. It has been completely littered by plastic and waste. She finally reaches home to see her two daughters standing near the fish enclosure with tears upset and almost in tears. All the fish have died. The water has changed colour to almost black. Waste has seeped into their enclosure. At the same time the drums get louder, the trumpets flare and the mother looks to the direction of the festival. Her eyes fill up. She asks the children to go inside. Inside the kitchen, she serves food on two separate plates for her children. The eldest daughter comes up to her and asks her if she knows what it feel like to be looked at like food.

The mother is quiet and turns around to put her hand on her daughter’s face. She moves it aside and walks away saying at least with her father she felt safe. Three days have passed. The landlord is sitting at his dining table with an elaborate meal in front of him. As he is about to eat, we hear the voice of his wife from the background again taunting at him saying it’s been 3 days and no one values his word or his ability in that village and he should stop calling himself a man. At the same time, leela comes in and places a set of keys at his table. She says she has no way of paying back the money and she is sorry. She walks out of the house and goes home. On the way home, she sees her uncle Raghavan and she breaks down telling him she has no place to stay and her daughters are going to be homeless. Raghavan is hesitant at first but he then tells her he will help her. He takes her to a small fishing tent near the docks which can fit one person and tells her that’s all he can do.

The family moves in. That night the mother has an epiphany. The youngest hugs her and says as long as we are together any place can be a home. A few days later, on the way back from school the youngest daughter sees a beautiful sight of a Luxurious House built-in water in the same Village which is the talk of the town.

The mother and the two daughters are inside the water and are picking up logs and wood and are making a house on the surface. We then show a montage of the house being built step by step. As time goes the feat starts receiving media attention and people from all over the village come to see it. International corporations take an interest in the family and even offer to build a house for the family under these circumstances. The family is overjoyed. A news presentation covers the whole sequence of events.
2 years later we see two boys watching the same video. They look back at the house on the water. It looks older. There are animals all around. Over on the side, they see the foundation of the “new house” incomplete. It starts drizzling. Leela comes outside and calls out to her kids and her animals. They all run inside the house. She covers it’s roof with a giant palm leaf. Inside we see a small ecosystem has formed with the family and the animals. The mother and her two daughters lie on their small cot. The camera tracks back from their faces into the sky showing the lights go off.

Directed by Tijo Thomas (India)

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