VK Neelarao blows the dust off a DVD before putting it in his television’s disc reader. The title song of his latest film plays from the rooftop of his home in Jai Hindpuram, in the southern Indian city of Madurai. “I sang this song myself,” he says. “And the hero of the film is my son.”
Neelarao, a retired silk-weaver and magazine editor, is one of the last guardians of the fast-vanishing Saurashtrian language, a mostly oral Indo-Aryan tongue. “Around 80% of the language has been forgotten already,” he says. “My grandchildren don’t understand me when I speak Saurashtrian. My family, everyone around me speaks Tamil,” he adds, referring to the dominant language of Madurai. “I fear that soon they will turn me into a Tamilian.”
In an attempt to save the language, Neelarao and others are capturing it on camera in films that are generally homemade and self-financed. Last year his work Hedde Jomai made waves after screening in several cities. In the next few months his latest film will be shown in cinemas around the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
Over the opening credits at an early screening, Neelarao explains how his idea came about. “I didn’t make this film to become famous,” he says. “Our language is nearing extinction. It is my mother tongue. I can’t give you a reason why I love it.”
Read more: The Guardian