Muthuvan Kalyanam: Wedding in the Hills

By Virtual Bharat

Kalyani packs a traditional wedding saree and heads deep in the forest of Western Ghats along with her friends. They play a game to trick the boys: sing, eat and live there, sometimes for days, until the groom finds her and takes a vow.

It is a wedding in the hills. A marriage solemnized by the bridesmaids and best boys in dense forest. A new age wedding as it may sound, but a custom followed since generations by the Muthuvan community in Kerala. The story of Kalyani and Aji is pure love and perseverance.

At a time when destination weddings are preferred, ‘Muthuvan Kalyanam’ presented by Bharatbala helps you discover the unique custom that is fading with time.

With breathtaking cinematic visuals, rich music and an untold story, the film showcases an ultimate Kerala wedding. The groom’s quest for love and his promise made to his wife-to-be leads him to a unique journey: an age old tradition lost in time.

The Muthuvans of Kerala, a tribal community in Kerala, owed their lives to the forests which fed them and guarded them. It also played matchmaker for a love-struck couple, a custom fading the passage of time.

The Story:

Muthuvan tribe is one among the 36 tribes of Kerala who are said to have migrated from the famous temple city Madurai, Tamil Nadu.

In olden days the Muthuvan marriage custom - or Penneduppu in local dialect - was a celebration for the entire village, an affair lasting several days. As part of tradition, after the groom sought the bride and her family’s consent, the bride’s friends playfully hid her in the thick forest around the hamlet. The now hapless groom had to quickly use his wits. With a band of trusted friends, he needed to scour the densely wooded hills for his bride, or risk mockery.

He faced the dangers of the forest to just ask for her hand.

Sometimes, the search would continue over several days. It cannot be given up because the marriage would only be solemnized if the man managed to find his wife-to-be. Once the game was over, and the groom won it by sighting the bride in the company of her singing friends, the marriage was presided over by the bridesmaids, in the forest itself. Ornaments and a saree were exchanged, and the couple were officially married.

Blessed by nature in the deep dark forest, the newlyweds spent a night as they watched trees disappearing into the sky and the moon shining through the leaves; the sound of gasping breath in the silence and wind slipping through the leaves. The unique wedding ceremony in the forest comes to an end. The couple return the next day to their village to receive blessings of elders, and finally participate in the joyous celebration.

In the film, Muthuvan Kalyanam, the story is narrated by the grandfather to the young generation. It is a tradition fading with time. “Back then, a word of honour was enough. Now the forest is gone, so did our customs,” says the grandfather in the film.

The journey

Virtual Bharat reached the interiors of Western Ghats forests and filmed the story of a Muthuvan couple in the Ernakulam district. Many months were spent in researching and locating the Muthuvan tribe in the thick forest.

Iconic filmmaker and founder of Virtual Bharat, Bharatbala when heard about this story, decided to film it. “I read one line about this unique marriage in a news article. Our Virtual Bharat team started researching upon it,” he said. “It is such a pure and innocent love story that I immediately felt it could be told cinematically. The film is visually magical and the folklore is unique and timeless.”

With no road connectivity and an off road travel of nearly 1.5 hours, a small team of Virtual Bharat filmmakers reached the tribal hamlet. “These are locations not on the tourist map of India but when some of the elders of the community took us deep in the forest, it was breathtakingly beautiful,” said Shawn Sebastian, director of the film.

The film crew, extremely passionate to tell this unique story of love, also braved the dangers of the forest while shooting. “Moreover, charging our camera batteries was a huge challenge because there is no electricity in the tribal hamlet. Only a few houses were dependent on solar power and we had to request them to allow us to charge batteries,” said Sebastian.

About Virtual Bharat:

Virtual Bharat is a 1000 film journey that explores untold stories from every corner of India. The idea is to discover India’s rich culture and bring human stories in under 10 minutes. The 1000 stories of India discovers tales spanning people, landscapes, literature, folklore, dance, music, traditions, architecture, and more.Vision of director Bharatbala, creator of Maa Tujhe Salaam, we are a tale of India told person-by-person, story-by-story, and experience-by-experience.