Kerala figures in film on world's most amazing fireworks

Sanu George
18 May 2013

Thrissur (Kerala), May 18 (IANS) The festivities and fireworks at the Thrissur Pooram festival have stunned two US-based filmmakers who are making a movie on pyrotechnics across the globe. They have termed it as one of the most amazing display they have ever witnessed.

The Veverka brothers - Jesse and Jeremy - both educated at the prestigious Cornell University, are making a full-length feature-documentary titled "Passfire" under their own production banner. The film features the world's most amazing fireworks, the passionate people who make them and the cultures behind them.

The duo was here last month to witness the Thrissur Pooram festivities, where the fireworks display is a much-talked about event by tourists who come from across the globe.

"The objective of our film is to show people the various ways that people use fireworks around the world and the joy fireworks bring," Jesse Veverka told IANS in an email interview.

Kerala by far has the biggest maroons, a type of round firecracker, that they have ever seen anywhere.

In other countries, a maroon might be six or eight inches at the most, but in Kerala, they saw ones as big as 30 inches in diameter, and weighing over 100 kg. The only other country that makes such large shells is Japan, but those are built for colour, not sound.

"In Kerala fireworks are about flash and sound, not colour. We have never seen so many big and bright loud fireworks anywhere else. It was explained to us that in Hindu mythology, the sound honours gods such as Shiva and Rama.

"That is also unique - using fireworks to honour the gods," said Jesse Veverka, who is an aerospace engineer by training but is passionate about fireworks.

The duo plans to release the nearly two-hour long film in 2015. The project is 100 percent privately funded by sponsorships from the fireworks industry and through crowdfunding, which entails raising money from private individuals.

So far, they have raised about 40 percent of the $250,000 expected cost of the film.

Apart from India, they have visited the US, China, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand for the project and will soon travel to Malaysia, Mexico, Britain, Spain, Italy, Malta, Greece, Portugal, Brazil, South Africa and Australia - and possibly more countries - to get a complete picture on fireworks.

After traversing several places, Jesse Veverka said there is something different about fireworks in Kerala because people here send them aloft from holes dug in the ground rather than using launch tubes like in other countries.

"Also, in Kerala they don't use electronic firing systems. Shows are hand-fired and lines of black powder (gun powder) are run between the holes in the ground to connect the different shells. We have only seen this in Kerala," added Jesse Veverka.

"The theme of how fireworks are used in various cultures will tie the film together and Thrissur Pooram will be very important - it will have a major place in the film," he added.

(Sanu George can be contacted at sanu.g@ians.in)

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