Kaathy, the poor nonagenarian, dons the garb of a quarry-worker in the evening of her life to eke out a living. She represents the poverty stricken multitude in a world that exhorts campaigns and conducts demonstrations on poverty alleviation. You might be thinking who she is and in which context she is being talked about. Kaathy is a character in a 20-minute radio documentary, ‘Kaathy is Poor’, produced by Biju Mathew. It had bagged the Akashavani National Award, 2011 in the category ‘Special Topic Documentary’ and became the first ever programme from the Thiruvananthapuram Commercial Broadcasting Service (CBS) of All India Radio to win the coveted national award. The audio album observes the character and its milieu from close quarters.
“It is an observation made in the wake of the Millennium Development Goal which aims at the eradication of extreme poverty by 2015. Still, in third world countries like India, things remain unchanged in many regions. The documentary envisions a poverty-free tomorrow to enable youth for exploring job potentials,” says Biju Mathew, programme executive of Ananthapuri FM.
A box story of an aged quarry worker, which appeared in a Malayalam newspaper, led to the making of ‘Kaathy is Poor’. “That single story caught my attention and I started pondering over such people and their plight and decided to convert into a radio documentary,” says Biju.
The producer also mentions the success stories of the National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme workers from Vathikudy, a village in Idukki. The stigma surrounding employing an HIV infected person in a job too finds mention in the documentary. Economist and Gandhian Prof V Ramdas’ speech on the reasons for poverty and the measures to tackle it is also featured.
The documentary lays emphasis on the need for the active involvement of youth in taking up employment and contributing their part in a healthy nation building process. The documentary runs without narration except for the announcements at the beginning and the end - ‘Kaathy is Poor’ - and the dialogues and voice bytes in-between.
The documentary also explores humane elements at quite a few junctures. For instance, Penia, the Greek goddess who introduces herself as she “transforms a person into a human being” is one such. Similarly, almost towards the end, we hear Kaathy explaining how a rock,an inanimate thing, becomes sensitive in helping her to make the job easy even when human beings forget to show mercy on a woman in her dotage. In between, Sudama and his wife, the characters from the epic Mahabharata, make their appearance too.
About the documentary that was aired during Onam in 2011, the producer says that he was careful in bringing out the script. “Writing this script took lots of effort. For presenting a pertinent topic like poverty, stating so many factual data could make the listener feel bored and this format was chosen after much thought,” Biju says.
Biju Mathew has also garnered several prestigious international awards in radio broadcasting such as Thomson Foundation Programme Award (2005), European Union Media Award (2006), ABU programme Award (2008), ABU-UNESCAP programme award, ABU prize and the first prize for his work ‘Penkunju’ at the 12th Iran International Radio Festival Competition.
The voice cast of ‘Kaathy is Poor’ comprises Sulu Boban (Kaathy), Durga Raju (Penia), Biju Kalluvathukkal (Sudama) and Radhika (wife of Sudama).