‘Amma’, translating to mother in a handful of Indian languages, is a word that is associated most often with love. But, it is also a word that is instinctively uttered when faced with pain.

The recently released Malayalam short film, Vayanasala is about a traumatic incident involving a child that features the word in a disturbing context.

Vayanasala (Library) is a 10-minute short film set on a school campus that unfolds with the conversation between two characters about a child’s traumatic death. When one of the characters enter the abandoned place to clean and renovate it into a library, he is left with an unsettling emotion when he notices a scribble on the wall.

The short film produced by Wonderwall Media is written and directed by Suneesh Surendran. It features Manikandan Pattambi, who is known for his role in Sufiyum Sujathayum, and Bilas Chandrahasan, who was last seen in Cold Case. Vayanasala is adapted from a short story of the same name in Jayan Rajan’s book titled Yankee

Speaking to Silverscreen India, Suneesh reveals that the short story written by his friend Jayan is based on a true event that happened in Kerala. “A child got trapped in a school building and died there. Later, when the body was retrieved, they found that the child had written ‘Amma’ on the wall. When I read Jayan’s story based on this incident, it affected me deeply and since then, I wanted to make it into a film.”

Suneesh says it took him a long while to find the apt location for the story. “Finally, earlier this year, I happened to visit a school in Aryanad village in Thiruvananthapuram. It had an isolated building away from the main campus which was what the story needed. We obtained permission and shot the film there in a half-day schedule in March 2020.”

With the short story as the foundation, Suneesh reworked the dialogues and screenplay according to the location. 

“After watching the short film, a viewer told us that a similar incident happened in Tamil Nadu,” says the filmmaker, adding that those who had already read the story found the visual format convincing. 

Suneesh, who has previously made multiple documentaries, was awarded the Kerala State Television Award in 2008 for directing a documentary titled Day 3. It depicts the miserable plight of stray dogs that are brutally killed in a remote village 30 km away from Thiruvananthapuram.