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The Boogeyman

Directed by Govindan Aravindan

Cast: Master Ashok, Ramunni, Vilasini Reema

2021 restoration by L’Immagine Ritrovata

A bright red betel-nut sun bursts over the horizon and casts India’s southwestern Malabar region in decadent swatches of color; the scene is set for KUMMATTY, Govindan Aravindan’s playful cinematic parable about a geriatric “boogeyman” who heralds springtime and turns children into animals. Newly restored thanks in part to Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, this masterpiece of the Indian new wave/Parallel Cinema movement returns to audiences in stunning 4K. 

Children love the white bearded Kummatty and his spirited sing-song ways. Searching, following, and chanting his name, they form a roving unit of devotees. But when a simple gesture by their folk hero transforms them into other creatures, they’re forced to reacquaint themselves with the world and regain the trust and love of their families in fresh form. One boy, Chindan, misses the moment of re-transformation, and is forced to spend the next year as a dog.

Remarkable for its formal compositions and spare use of dialogue, this distinctly cinematic feat is one shining example of India’s twentieth century alternatives to Bollywood.

—Inney Prakash

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