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We caught the ‘honest thief’ whose CCTV video went viral!

Rasheed Parakkal, who acted in and directed the film New God, which went viral with people thinking it was actual CCTV footage, said, "The video got so much attention, that in a police station here, there were officers trying to investigate if I was linked to similar cases of pickpocketing."

Written by Soumya Mathew | New Delhi | Updated: September 15, 2016 5:45 am
parakkal-thief_759 A screenshot from New God and Rasheed Rasheed Parakkal (right). Internet’s attempt at sensationalising everything may have cost this man his reputation. (Source: Rasheed Parakkal/Facebook)

“Every man has a shadow, and in the age of the Internet, it is not the man, but his shadow — which would not have been there if not for him — that is given more importance.” These are the words of a man who has borne the brunt of the vile ways of the Internet, and the social media’s tendency to venerate anything as viral, without getting to know the actual truth.

Rasheed Parakkal, a short film-maker from Wadakanchery, Kerala, released a film called New God in the last week of August 2016. The film shows a thief (played by Parakkal himself) picking a biker’s pocket, only to realise he’s under CCTV surveillance. Now alerted, he tries to hide his face and then drops the wallet near the biker. The CCTV is the new God. The film went viral, grabbed attention, people had a good laugh watching the perplexed thief’s reaction, but what the Internet failed to realise was, this was a movie. Shortly after Parakkal uploaded the film on his YouTube channel, miscreants edited his 2-minute film in such a way that, it looked like an actual CCTV glaring down at a thief! The edited video did not have the film’s credits or the background music, which made it look absolutely believable.

“The video got so much attention, that in a police station here, there were officers trying to investigate if I was linked to similar cases of pickpocketing,” said Parakkal, talking to indianexpress.com, which also featured the film clip when it went viral (Read: Watch — This thief finds out he’s been caught on camera, what he does next is simply epic)

“By using a CCTV angle to shoot the movie, we were trying to make it in all truthfulness and as close to reality. Little did I know that it will get picked up in this way,” he said. And Parakkal doesn’t know whether to be happy or sad about it. On one hand, he’s happy people thought it was an actual CCTV grab, because that would mean his acting and the whole set-up seemed original. “But I am obviously disappointed because it was my original work that someone tampered with for his short-term amusement,” he said over the phone from Wadakanchery.

Thanks to this misuse, Parakkal now lives in constant fear. “People who know me would understand. But what if I am travelling and a stranger sitting beside me recognises me from the edited video? He would assume that I am a thief!”

Watch New God — the film, here.

With his not-so-pleasant experience, Parakkal has some profound observations to make about the human psychology. “Aaarante ammeku bhraanthu pidichaal, kaanaan nalle rasamaanu,” he quoted an old adage, which literally translates to “It is fun to watch the antics of someone’s mother who has gone mad.” Expounding that until they are not at the receiving end, people will not find  it wrong to stand aside and laugh at someone else’s agony.

The Internet has perpetuated “herd mentality” into the minds of people, he explained. Netizens would rather click on “share” and “like” rather than pausing for a moment to clarify what the truth is. “Which is why, when this video started doing the rounds of the Internet, even local news channels broadcasted it as it is, without delving deep for the truth,” Parakkal said.

He narrated an incident when his friend beckoned a man by calling out his name. The latter, under the influence of alcohol responded by hitting him for no reason. What followed was, a group of people joining the drunk man in beating up Parakkal’s friend, without even bothering to know why he was getting thrashed up, in the first place!

Probably, the lesser than goldfish attention span and the “only a click away” availability of content on the Internet has made people so comfortable, that they tend to not make an effort to check for facts, or rather in the look out for sensationalism, no one really bothers anymore about reality.

In this case, for many, the real story behind New God came about when award-winning actor Ashish Vidyarthi shared the truth behind the viral video and give the 45-year-old film-maker and writer due credit. Though Parakkal’s friends knew of the video, it was Vidyarthi’s public tweet that had people connecting the work of art to the video they’d all seen and shared. The actor, who is currently working in a movie being written by Parakkal, tweeted about the film-maker’s story.

This was his first tweet.

 

He followed it up with this tweet, revealing the identity of “the thief”.

 

“The Internet should be seen as a tally of negatives and positives,” said Parakkal. “Just like how the sunlight will be taken for granted if there are not occasional hail rains and thunderstorms, I would like to look at this as a positive experience, that will make me value my success more.” He, however, is trying to take action on those who created the video. “I am not just taking a stand for myself, but for many others, who have fallen prey to the vices of the increased accessibility of the Internet,” he said. Parakkal’s friends in the Police are investigating who the miscreants are.

Parakkal understands the advantages of the Internet, because for film-makers with shoe-string budgets, Internet is just the platform to share their work with the world. He has been making silent short films for four years, now. Why silent films? Because, it doesn’t always require words to convey a message, sometimes just a glance or an expression is enough, said Parakkal.

The short film-maker has won may accolades and awards for his previous works like Generation Gap, Vacation, etc. His first novel — ‘Takkaali krishi kaarante swapnangal’ (The dreams of a tomato cultivator), talks about the hardships he endured during his stay in the Gulf with only the tomato plants he cultivated, for company.