Mohanlal-starrer 'Pulimurukan' may have been pulled off the cinema houses in Kerala and beyond, but backpackers are on the lookout for the settlement of Puliyur, where the tiger hunter charmed audiences through his celluloid adventures. A jaunt to Puliyur is top on their minds and the search takes them to the Pooyamkutty forest area comprising Mamalakkandam, Pindimedu, Tolnada, Kurunnumedu and Knacherry. It is in this area that the fictional Puliyur was created for the mega-successful flick that has charged into the Rs 100-crore club.
Sister Rosina is one such traveler who had set out to be in the midst of Puliyur’s natural settings. Her quest took her to Pooyamkutty, and only after reaching here did she realize that the fictional Puliyur is actually Pooyamkutty in all its splendor. Sr Rosina, her colleagues and students at the St Annes Higher Secondary School at Kottappuram in Kodungalloor, arrived in Pooyamkutty as part of a school tour. "The fictional Puliyur, which indeed is Pooyamkutty for real, charmed us big time, with its cascading waterfalls, and cool breeze”, she says. Puliyur, sans any trace of the wild cat, is high on traveler’ agenda at the moment.
Quiet flows Kuttambuzha
As you drive from Kothamangalam, you will reach Thattekkad, where the famed bird sanctuary is located. Thattekad can be a worthy stop-over, but you have to reach Pooyamkutty before it is evening. For, as dusk falls, the tuskers in the area would venture out in search of watering holes.
Beyond Thattekkad lies Kuttambuzha. Asokan, who owns Asoka Restaurant, perhaps the only tea shop on Kutttambuzha’s bank, says: “Here we have pure air and water. And these are the only things we have.” Asokan is elated by the success of Pulimurukan. He believes that the success of the film is the only reason why travelers come in search of ‘Puliyur’.
“The sight of the forest is enough to fill your mind. But visitors to the forest areas do not know how to enjoy the beauty of nature. Most of them see the forest as a place to dump plastic waste, which is wrong. That makes us implement stricter measures so that nature’s beauty is preserved,” says T S Xavier, Forest Range Officer, Kuttambuzha.
The waterfalls of Pindimedu
Pooyamkutty in the midst of the wild woods has a couple of small shops and government offices. An occasional bus breaks the monotony. Walk beyond the junction and you reach Blavana, where you get to see the spot where a small tea shop was created for Pulimurukan. As you walk on, you find yourself on a not-too-small bridge that connects Pooyamkutty to the external world. In the fictional Puliyur, you see it in prominence on celluloid. The bridge, Manikantanchaal Chappath, gets its name from the tiny hamlet lying west of Pooyamkutty. When it rains, the Pooyamkutty River swells and Manikantanchaal Chappath gets submerged. You need special permissions from the Forest Department to go beyond this Chappath. Otherwise, you will have to return without visiting Pindimedu.
Pindimedu is devoid of a proper road at the moment. The path snakes through bamboo forests. It is on these bamboos that the elephants feast. It is through this path that Mohanlal and the Pulimurukan crew had traveled when the shoot was on.
A step into the Pooyamkutty wilderness would reveal caves that would bring thoughts of dens where the big cats live. But fear not, they aren’t tiger dens but the caves that were carved out of the rocks to test the strength when the hydroelectric project was planned. All these holes hold water and it is here that Pulimurukan washes off the scent of the tiger after every hunting episode.
If the Pindimedu waterfall holds within itself an unfathomable enigma, Kurunnumedu that lies close by is vast and a joy to watch. But beware, its beauty could tempt you and take you to the lush terrain where the wild elephants venture out for a swim. This is the place where the henchmen of Daddy Girija, the Pulimurukan character, come in search of medicinal herbs. Some of the song sequences have shots of the beautiful Kurunnnumedu.
Some time ago, when there was permission for locals to reap bamboo shoots, there were pathways that led them into the jungle. Kalladi is such a pocket - abandoned and inactive. It is by the side of the Kalladi pocket that Murukan reveals his love for Myna. The tiny water cascade proves to be a perfect setting for Murukan to tell Myna that he loves her.
Climb down from Kurunnumedu and you reach the road that leads to Mamalakkandam. The place has its share of inhabitants around spots like Urulanthanni and Panthapra. The forest dwellings are under a village chieftain. In the film too, Panthapra doubles up as the forest hamlet. The chief Thankappan Kamakshi reminisces: “We watched the shoot of Pulimurukan here. Though we wanted to go and watch the film, we did not have the cash to spend at the theaters.”
Take the village road that runs from Panthapra to the jungle, and you reach the Knacherry Durga Devi shrine. The temple stands in all splendor amidst the lush green vegetation that is part of the jungle. The temple courtyard is vast. Hornbills that inhabit the treetops keep a close watch over the serene location. Down below, the temple courtyard is protected by a fence, obviously to keep the invading elephants at bay.
The Durga Devi temple opens only on the first day of every Malayalam month. The priest travels all the way from distant Kalady. On that day, the whole village flows into the temple courtyard to pay obeisance to their protector deity. It is an occasion to celebrate, and the arrival of small traders and vendors of bangles and bindis add to the festivities, as pictured in the movie.
Knacherry too, these days, has its share of visitors. Those traveling to the Panthapra tribal hamlet make it a point to visit Knacherry, as if to re-live the experience that Pulimurukan’s village fair scenes. Apart from the leisure travelers, scientists keen on learning about the biodiversity of the region arrive here. David Quiller and wife Jian Strausmann are two of the lot. David and Jian have been to Mamalakkandam earlier too in their quest to learn about the avian wonders of the region. This time as they trekked into Knacherry they have found themselves among many visitors, like never before. Ask David why such a rush in this far-flung jungle arena, and pat comes the answer: “Hara Haro Hara”. It is obvious that he too has heard of Pulimurukan and his adventures!
(This article was first published in Vanitha)