Chemman Chaalai

Film Info:
English Title: The Gravel Road
Country: Malaysia
Genre: Family Drama
Duration 92 Minutes
Language: Tamil, Malay, Mandarin and English
Subtitles: English subtitles
Year: 2005

Production & Distribution Credits
One Hundred Eye & MyFoto Studio

Deepak Menon Film Credits:
Original Story 

Main Cast Credits:
Saratha Maran
Gandhi Nathan
Saran Kumar


Chemman Chaalai is a drama set in the 1960s in a rubber estate in Malaysia. The story revolves around a rubber tapers family living in the estate. Shantha comes from a poor family. She lives in an estate, where higher education for woman is near impossible. Shantha aspires to leave the estate and further her studies. However, due to many unfortunate circumstances this dream becomes a difficult one to achieve.

Director's Note
Malaysian Indians have little control on the economy and politics in Malaysia. A way forward would be education. Chemman Chaalai is full of hope. The film emphasis on the importance of education for the growth of the community and nation.

Awards & Nominations
Best Alternative Film, Anugerah Skrin TV3
Special Jury Award, Nantes Festival 3 Continents, France
Opening Film, Asian Film Symposium, Singapore
In Competition, Bangkok Int. Film Festival

Malaysian Screenings / Publications
ASTRO Vaanavil
Golden Screen Cinemas, International Screens, Kuala Lumpur & Penang
Kelab Seni Filem, Private Screenings

International Screenings / Publications
48th San Francisco Int. Film Fest, US
34th Rotterdam Int. Film Fest, The Netherlands
27th Nantes Festival 3 Continents, France
20th Tokyo Int. Film Fest, Japan
15th Fukuoka International Film Festival, Japan
10th Pusan Int. Film Festival, Korea
9th Toronto Reel Asian Film Fest, Canada
8th Buenos Aires Festival Independent Cinema, Argentina
7th Barcelona Asian Film Festival, Spain
7th Osian’s Cinefan Film Festival, India
6th Kaushung International Film Fest, Taiwan
Asian Film Symposium, Singapore
Bangkok Int Film Fest
MOV International Film Festival, Philippines


“The Gravel Road (Chemman Chaalai), from young Malaysian director Deepak Kumaran Menon, is one of the loveliest and most movinfilms I’ve seen in years. One has had grounds for asking recently: is this still possible, a work that never strikes a wrong emotional or dramatic note, that uses the camera to evoke quite precise and definite moods, whose performances (by non-professionals) are understated and nearly flawless, that contains a subtle but persistent and deeply-felt protest against social and national oppression? Such a film exists. And one has to feel heartened by its appearance.” – David Walsh, World Socialist Website

“Quietly lyrical "The Gravel Road," Chemman Chaalai's first feature, observes life on a rubber estate with the kind of delicate attention to detail that recalls Satyajit Ray” - Dennis Harvey,

“The Gravel Road is an equally rare instance of Tamil-language Malaysian filmmaking. At once brooding and beautifully shot mainly in moonlit forest groves and lonely, muddy lanes, Menon's story (from a screenplay by his mother) about a teenage girl's determination to stay in school despite her family's desire that she uphold tradition and surrender to a life of menial day work takes equal inspiration from Satyajit Ray's Apu trilogy and Malcolm X's assertion that a race, like an individual, can only find fulfillment through confidence, talent, and an unwavering belief in itself.” – Chuck Stephens, The San Francisco Bay, Guardian

“In simple and honest style, Menon tells a story that captures the plight of a typical working class family… The story is told in the typical style of an independent film and therefore something that all discerning cinema-goers should experience. Most things are implied but the result is powerful. Without being obviously tragic, the film is sad and touching but presents hope as well.” – Rubin Khoo, The Star

“A lens on the Malaysian margins” – Lim Li Min, International Herald Tribune

“Motivation for the poor Indian teen in the estate, perhaps. But the film could serve a larger purpose motivating his race, independent filmmakers, and Malaysians at large to be proud of our cultural heritage, especially the things that remind us of how humble we once were.” – Brian Yap, KLUE

“The first thing we think about when someone mentions an Indian movie is the dancing, singing and generally 3 hours of (sometimes) torture. However, "Chemman Chaalai" (The Gravel Road), the first Malaysian Tamil feature movie, isn't your typical Bollywood fare. Instead, it is a film of self-discovery, and a look into the life of Malaysian estate Indians in the 60's.” – Nigel Yap, Cinema Online

“The strength of Chemman Chaalai is in the sparkling subtleties with which it depicts the socio-political and cultural inadequacies of the Indian community at large.” – Nantha Kumar, The Star


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