BASED ON A TRUE EVENT
#1. LET’S CALL HIM MR.MACHO
The flamboyant Mr. Macho had just hit the road after letting his hair down in a high octane New Years Eve party. Mr. Macho was your impeccably dressed, classic metro-sexual gentleman by the day who doubled as a colorfully clothed pleasure seeking nocturnal party animal by the night. He was that friend of yours who always went to the office so that he could return to rave parties where his heart really was. Always lingering around for darkness to descend upon the city, this night crawler never missed a chance to swim to the depths of the hedonistic high seas to discover the hidden pleasure treasures lying undiscovered in the bottom. But what could’ve otherwise gone down as a run of the mill New Years Eve was about to turn nightmarish for Mr. Macho. On that fateful night, having swayed his body to the blaring electronic music on the crowded and dim lit dance floor to the hilt, he finally decide to take a break.
#2. THE ADRENALINE JUNKIE
Just as he was about to take the leave, his excited girl friend, trying to drown out the music shouted: “One for the road baby!” She wanted her sweetheart to take a final sip from the chalice of bliss before they parted ways. With alcohol already creeping up his body, rushing through every nerve, he acceded to her last request involuntarily. Inundated in alcohol, he managed to mount on his bike after many futile attempts. Once he revved up the engine, a false sense of dominance embraced his judgments. While riding the beast, he felt his adrenaline pumping heart shout at him to go faster. Mr. Macho stepped on the gas throwing caution to the wind. Upon hitting the highway road, it dawned upon him that his eyes were beginning to betray him. The road ahead was slithering in front of him like a giant serpent, vehicles transmogrified into monsters screaming past him and he believed he was floating aimlessly, amidst stars and clouds, in a fiery intergalactic universe.
#3. LONG ARM OF THE LAW
Just when his misadventure was a whisker away from mortally injuring the onlookers, his journey to meet his maker came to an abrupt halt. No soul on that spot could miss the zig zag biker creating chaos on an arterial highway on a New Years Eve. The limbs of the law too were no exception. A siren booming Police patrol vehicle, taking an abrupt turn, caught up with Mr. Macho in no time. From the vehicle, down came two men clothed in khaki. The higher ranked one thundered from his microphone at him to stop the bike. Nonetheless, Mr. Macho by now had hit a barricade and had stopped the bike barely managing to sit on it. Upon receiving orders, the subordinate in khaki cautiously approached Mr. Macho whose drooping head was still resting on the fuel tank of his bike. All the while focusing intensely on Mr. Macho, the man in Khaki gradually removed his paraphernalia to detect the blood alcohol level in Mr. Macho’s body. He stood in front of Macho and mustering his courage shot: “What’s your name?”
#4. BIG GUN BITES THE DUST
Angered by the interruptions Mr. Macho, who was still floating among the clouds, erupted like a simmering volcano. Raising his head, he looked at the policeman and replied nonchalantly: “I…. am….. Osama… Bin…. Laa…den.” Drunk as a lord, Mr. Macho’s critical faculties had deserted him long before. He had no clue whatsoever about his own identity. All hell broke loose when Mr. Macho, driven by Dutch courage, added a rejoinder to his reply: “And….I…..am….Here….To…Kill…..” Before he could utter another word to finish the sentence, the bleary eyed Mr. Macho saw in slow motion, a hairy muscular hand with a clenched fist at the end travelling swiftly towards his nose. In no time Mr. Macho found himself kissing the road and awkwardly embracing his bike which had fallen along with him. Darkness crept into his eyes from all corners blurring everything initially and knocking him unconscious eventually. On that night, Macho wrote himself into history by getting sucker punched when the chime of the city clock ushered in a brand new year.
#5. THE COURTROOM DRAMA
The squeaking wooden floors, the groaning doors and the cracking chairs amidst loud babbles which made way for dignified voices made Mr. Macho realize that he was in the middle of a court proceeding. As he summoned his consciousness gradually, it dawned on him that he had in fact kick started the first day of an eventful New Year in a nondescript court room. After spending the night unconsciously behind the bars, Macho was now in the dock for all the wrong reasons! He was facing the music for D.U.I. aka drunk driving. For him, the verdict was a foregone conclusion. He knew he was on the firing line and waited with bated breath to face searing questions from the judge. Mr. Macho hung his head like a dying flower to escape the penetrating gazes around him. He gathered some courage and decided to apologize profusely, in order to effect a last minute change of heart, before his imminent incarceration. But time seemed to move at a glacial pace for him, making his unpleasant date with the judiciary linger on for eternity.
#6. RETURN OF THE DRAGON
“But, Wait a minute!” Interjecting him, I continued: “If your crime was proven beyond doubt and your incarceration was certain, what are you doing relaxing on your bed, narrating the whole incident to me?” Arching my brows, I asked him in disbelief: “Why haven’t they locked you up yet?” Mr. Macho, after glancing at his watch in style, jumped up from his bed putting on the airs of Superstar Rajinikanth and laughed at me deliriously. After dressing up immaculately and adjusting his blobbing hair for the nth time, he turned around and replied: “It’s Deus Ex Machina you see!” Scratching my head, I followed him downstairs and uttered: “How on earth!” “Did someone intervene to erase your criminality?”
#7. DEUS EX MACHINA
“ Yes!…That… is.. Exactly… what… happened!” said Mr. Macho sitting on his bike, ready to kick start his beast. I was still not convinced and asked him again: “But…How….?” While starting the engine to hit the road, he said: “The charge against me was Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol. The judge simply quashed them with one stroke of his pen claiming it’s all trumped up and vindictive.” “Because…”, asked an eager me expecting him to narrate a long winding explanation concerning the why of it all. “Because…..” said Mr. Macho revving up the engine,
“You don’t DRIVE a bike…..you RIDE it……!
“The Policemen Filed The Wrong Word and the case didn’t stand….Ha…Ha…Ha…”
As he began his journey, leaving a trail of smoke behind, to conquer the roads and disappeared into the horizon, I started home wondering who was really inebriate on that fateful night!
#8. THE END
Check Out Another Post Based On A True Event:“When The Cub Came Of Age”
A Review Of Sorts
WHAT MEETS THE EYE
AN ANGRY OLD WOMAN
Leelamma, an elderly woman, is part of a nuclear family living in Kochi, headed by his son Siby and his wife Jeena and their two children Alice and Allen studying in college and school respectively. Leelamma is in an eternal confrontational mood, picking faults and fights and getting angry with all and sundry at the drop of a hat. Her son Sibi loves Leelamma unconditionally but she chastises him for being a henpecked husband. Jeena, the daughter in Law, is a practical working woman who holds no grudges towards her mother in law. Despite all her efforts, her conversations with Leelamma always end in chaos. The children in the house too hate her for a variety of reasons. Whenever Allen, the school going son, sneaks out his father’s mobile phone or spends some time on the desktop playing games, Leelamma smells something fishy and rains down upon Siby to reprimand his son. Their daughter Alice, the college going girl, is not allowed to bolt her room from inside and doesn’t have the freedom to talk over the phone with boys or invite them home since Leelamma would pour cold water over the plans. This suppression of freedom is the alibi for Alice to stay put in the college hostel.
In a nutshell, they all share a tumultuous relationship with the eldest member of their home and assume that the fountainhead of all their troubles is the grandmother! This family hates to swear by the phrase Home is where the hearth is. Things move from the frying pan into the fire when Siby, upon the advice of his Boss, Anil, takes his mother to the nearest old age home to engage her in conversation with people of her own age aimed at providing her some relief. However the mother gets the wrong end of the stick and deciphers it as the sign of ominous things to come. Leelamma gives Siby a piece of her mind and slips back into her old ways breaking the truce at the home once again. Consequently the family falls back into the never ending cycle of bedlam.
IN COMES THE MIGRANT BENGALI
Leelamma has this uncanny knack to harass her housemaids, despite the latter parading their best behavior, forcing Siby to put up an advertisement on a wall in the nearest junction. Jeena’s intransigence to perform the household chores lands them on Siby’s head. Siby’s hunt for the elusive servant ends with Babu: a quintessential Bengali migrant. Babu survives his baptism by fire and gradually emerges as the most trusted lieutenant of Leelamma. As months roll by, peace paves the home a rare visit and just when it shows signs of settling down, the man behind the old age home visit idea, Anil, shows up at an unearthly hour to extend his heartfelt thanks to Siby for a timely help. All hell breaks loose when an already enraged Leelamma vents her anger upon Anil and his family for the most silliest reasons on earth, humiliating them and leaving Siby red faced. At this point Siby’s perennial river of patience runs dry forcing him to confront Leelamma for her ill manners but Leelamma remains intransigent as ever. Consequently the family’s plan to go on a holiday trip goes haywire when Leelamma refuses to accompany them. Siby’s reluctance to leave her mother behind with a Bengali servant for company almost wrecks their plans but the dilemma gets resolved miraculously.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER……..
In walks Susamma, the mother of Jeena, saving the day. Susamma and Leelamma are forced to spend the next two weeks together till the family returns home from the holidays. Leelamma and Susamma, the two grandmothers are poles apart. A learned woman who looks at life with optimism, Susamma is your confident, liberal, technology friendly and down to earth polyglot grandmother. On the other hand, Leelamma, who gets hot under the collar easily, is the unlettered, conservative, pessimistic and illiberal grandmother. After some hilarious run ins, Susanna and Leelamma bury the hatchet. In Susmmaa, Leelamma finds a shoulder to cry on and spills the beans about her distrust for technology, concern for the grandchildren and her difficult past. Leelamma’s frustrations comes to the fore as tears revealing her yearning for love from the family members.
Susanna tries her best to cheer up the dejected Leelamma and vows to dismantle her stereotypical Rowdy image within a short span. Together they embark on a course correction which eventually ends up giving birth to Leelamma’s bucket list. One by one, Leelamma tries to fulfill Susamma’s wishes. For the most difficult wish of all, they are seen embarking on a surreptitious sojourn racing against the family which could return back from their holidays anytime. En route, Leelamma catches up with her ogling college mate and gets help from his son and the group learns the reason behind the mysterious disappearance of the Bengali servant Babu. By the end of the sojourn, Leelamma undergoes a transformation becoming a benign version of herself. She stars a venture, alongside Susamma, to fulfill the wishes in the bucket list of the inhabitants of an old age home.
WHAT DOESN’T MEET THE EYE
LIVING TOGETHER SEPERATELY
Leelamma is initially shown as being at odds with technology. She has no kind words for her granddaughter Alice when the latter bides time gazing at the touch screen or chatting on her phone. Her chastising has lead to the computer being placed in the hall making it impossible for her grandson Allen to play games. Allen’s attempt to sneak out his father’s mobile phone to whatsapp his girlfriend too fails due to his spying grandmother. Jeena shuts herself up in the room after coming back from office and Siby is always shown as listening to the news. Nobody cares about the technologically handicapped status of Leelamma. The grandson and granddaughter are in their own worlds and are not bothered one bit to enable their grandmother overcome this handicap. Hence Leelamma stays an alien to facebook and whatsapp until Susamma’s intervention. This handicap results in Leelamma’s skeptical attitude towards technology. She is always looked down upon as a burden which fortunately changes for good by the end of the movie.
It is from this reservoir that Leelamma draws her anger to scold her grandchildren earning her the status “Rowdy Grandma.” Susanna is later seen complaining that everybody is bussie minding their own business. Neither the father nor the mother controls their children’s excessive technological indulgences according to her. The stark reality is that their home has no real space for face to face, informal conversations. When they finally strike a dialogue, it is to complaint about the demanding grandmother to each other. The only instance worth remembering is their breezy conversation inside the car which even though begins reluctantly ensures the zestful participation of all concerned.
It is revealed in a flashback that Leelamma lost the love of her life, in her youth, owing to the lack of instant communication. She is later seen wishing that had today’s technology been present back then, her life would’ve taken a different turn. In many ways it reveals the distance our society has traversed technologically within the lifetime of Leelamma. From technology being a non starter in the early years post independence, it has come of age with its ability to compress time and distance today. But has that made us more rational and progressive? The jury is still out on that one!!
RATIONALLY TOUGH, EMOTIONALLY FRAGILE
In many ways this is the reflection of our society’s current plights. As we open the doors and usher in technology with a red carpet welcome into our inner sanctums, we are unfortunately letting out the intimacy and the warmth in our real relationships through the windows. As the lines between the real and the virtual world blurs ending up diluting the intimacy of our real bonds we are increasingly getting alienated. This could become a pitfall for the emotionally fragile amongst us, especially the children, and they could find solutions by taking extreme steps. These genuine concerns underlie Leelamma’s rant against Alice bolting the door and Allen sneaking out the mobile. But these genuine pleas fall on deaf ears since Leelamma neither has the patience to make them understand the intricacies nor is she seen as adept at technology by anyone. Hence exchanges become mere rants letting emotions reign supreme giving reason a go by. There are no conversations but only calls.
MASS MEDIA DRIVEN POP CULTURE IN A POST MODERN SOCIETY
Siby is frequently shown as arriving at conclusions based on the news he watches and is later seen letting out his frustrations by recalling watching cartoons with his intransigent child. Even the most intimate conversation of the family, inside a car, is dominated by popular movie culture carried to them by the FM radio. They are living in a post modern Kerala where mass media has become the part and parcel of their lives tailing them like a shadow, shaping their thoughts and opinions.
Post modern societies are ones in which service industries concerned with the processing and transmission of information, knowledge and the servicing of consumption dominate. These societies, like the one in Kerala, are thought to be media saturated societies in that the media – and the popular culture it generates – now shape identity and lifestyle much more than traditional influences such as family, community, social class, gender, nation or ethnicity. Moreover, postmodern society is underpinned by globalization – choices and consumption patterns have been made more diverse by a globalised media which has resulted in other cultural lifestyles being within easy reach. The general belief is that this has generally lead to the decline of popular culture.
NO COUNTRY FOR THE OLD
There are multiple ways in which societies across the world treats the elderly. In a tribal society, generally, respect grows as one grows older eventually earning him a position in the decision making council. But in the modern industrialized societies, once you cross sixty years of age, you are given a news status which goes by the name: SENIOR CITIZEN. This new status comes in tow with diminished roles, reduced mobility, illness, separation and melancholia for company. As one turns sixty, he/she is expected to call it quits and respond to the golden shake hand. The quality of the rest of their lives depends upon the size of their savings and is inversely proportional to their status/importance in the society. If their good health follows them till the very end, which is highly unlikely, they can have greater mobility and longevity. Things can get far worse for women in a patriarchal society if you can recall the plight of the Vrindavan widows.
Eventhough, she is financially well off, Leelamma too is in the same boat. Nobody bothers to ask what she wants. Her restricted mobility allows her space only for routine visits to the churches and hospitals. Upon getting an ill timed advice, she is taken to an old age home contrary to her expectation of a mall visit. A conservative Leelamma, the representative of the yesteryear generation, finds it really hard to come to terms with the changing times reflected in her attitude towards the technologically oriented younger generation driven by internet, smart phones and facebook. Hence, she gets isolated and her reaction is extreme hostility.
BREAKING AND ENTERING
Midway through the movie, Leelamma reflects upon her forgettable past as a child and the pains of being a wife. In a nutshell, her life as a woman until now has been obedient, always playing to the patriarchal gallery. But through her Bucket List Leelamma finally finds liberation. Her bucket list in many ways defies every rule thrusted upon a woman by the misogynistic patriarchal society. For instance, no one can conceive two elderly women from respected families buying beers and going on drinking binge around the town, shouting at onlookers through the window, in a car driven by their male servant. They walk into a bar, order beers and gulp them down in the company of Anil, Siby’s boss at one point. If you found the above scene hard to digest and arched your eyebrows in disbelief, then perhaps you are looking at things from a malestream viewpoint. However, I cringed when the ladies defended their sheer act of defiance by taking asylum under religion and not saying “why should men have all the fun”. Leelamma, as part of her bucket list, goes on to play football and even drives a heavy vehicle which is an occupation dominated again by men. That in many ways question the basis on which men dominate some professions driven by the logic that women are the weaker sex and incapable of tougher tasks.
A REAL ROWDY’S BUCKET LIST
Likewise, dancing in public too is outside the realm of acceptable behavior thrusted by the society upon women. By defying the same, they finally throw their shackles away. Then comes the stunner! Leelamma, Susamma and her teenage granddaughter joined by her boyfriend embark on a surreptitious journey to find Leelamma’s long lost love interest. It is one thing to yearn about your lost love and spend the rest of your life remembering those memorable moments but it is quite another for an elderly widow to go on a journey to find out the whereabouts of her lost lover. The youngsters who accompany them cannot keep away from eulogizing Leelamma’s sacrifice and the real love which she still has for her man despite getting married to another one. At one point, I started wondering whether Leelamma was, all this while, disloyal to her husband, her family and her children! This whole notion goes for a toss when the street smart Leelamma, upon meeting her lover, gives one tight slap and a mouthful to her erstwhile lover for jilting her. Her final act of taking revenge was one tight slap on Patriarchy and the notions they thrust upon women in the guise of culture. I could feel the slap on my cheeks! Leelamma, at the end of it rediscovers herself and doesn’t seem to care about the rowdy tag thrusted upon her by the society for defying her conventional role. Women characters are portrayed as strong and independent but I think the movie, unfortunately, won’t clear the Bechdel Test!
AN AGEING KERALA
The movie is a partial reflection of today’s society in Kerala. Having attained an almost literate status through social reforms and government programmes, the women of Kerala were empowered to make enlightened decisions with respect to childbirth resulting in the attainment of a desired total fertility rate(TFR) affecting the population growth reducing it drastically. As a consequence, when the rest of the country is set to reap the demographic dividend, Kerala today is the Japan of India because of geriatrics and consequently becoming a haven for migrant laborers. Every house in Kerala today will have an elderly member due to the increasing longevity resulting from better health infrastructure. When we juxtapose the complex picture of growing urbanization riding on the back of technology powered by the unending flow of gulf money through remittances, traditional joint families will increasingly disperse into nuclear families forcing the elderly to survive in a largely changing environment resulting in limited options for them. They can join their grown up children, get into an old age home or plough a lonely furrow. With limited mobility, separation,financial insecurity and ailments for company, things may start going downhill for many. The solution doesn’t lie in getting them admitted into old age homes but fulfilling their needs by giving them a patient hearing, treating them with dignity and respect because what goes around comes around!
Please visit Wikipedia for more details about the movie
For a more comprehensive and conventional review please visit THE MOVIES OF THE SOUL
The Post Modern Society and its connect with Media is inspired from HARALAMBOS & HOLBORN.
A Review Of Sorts
WHAT MEETS THE EYE
Kammattipaadam is your quintessential rural Kerala setting of the 1980s where modest houses share space amongst the verdant paddy fields, swaying coconut trees and bountiful water resources living in an unusual harmony. Like their houses, the people inhabiting Kammattipaadam are simple; so are their needs. Men, primarily from lower caste, eke a living out by breaking their backs in the fields. Their bodies are sculpted and thoughts are shaped by Agriculture. Women are always in the background. Their lives revolve around the household chores and being loyal to their husbands. The little ones are seen, climbing trees, catching frogs and running around in fields with gay abandon. The social relations of Kammattipaadam are informal and lively complete with myriad folk songs hailing the virtues of nature. For these reasons, the agrarian life in Kammattipaadam is placid and predicatable and chugs along at a normal pace. There are no explicit signs of modernity in Kammattipaadam barring a railroad and a tar road enabling mobility to the inhabitants.
THE ANGRY YOUNG MAN
An exception to the above rule is the hothead called Balan/Balakrishnan. Balan’s dictionary is devoid of the word “reason” and he has staunch faith in the “might is right” logic. This is established early on in the movie through an incident where Balan pummels a person who was trying to assert his rightful claim on a piece of land. This sheer act of defiance against the landed class is noticed by a local kingpin Surendran who takes Balan under his wings. As the narrative moves forward, Balan’s streak of violence grows in proportion and assumes greater certainty. Eventhough, his attempt to murder the local rowdy goes awry, Balan goes on to stamp his authority as the go-to-guy to solve any local problems. The children of Kammattipaadam grow amidst this flourishing violent culture which culminates in the idolization of Balan and his vicious ways.
VIOLENCE BEGETS VIOLENCE
Balan the man, his swashbuckling deeds and exploits gain a haloed status as the children grow up and are emulated by them when they become his underlings. Despite their schooling, they are attracted to Balan like moths to the fire. Predictably they gather around him, following him like a shadow, earning his trust and cultivating an unassailable group loyalty. They too graduate from landing punches to wielding weapons as they grow safely under the wings of Balan. Under orders from the kingpin Surendran, they stage more audacious and deadly attacks earning an unassailable reputation for brutality. The changing times in the society enables them to flourish and they branch out into the deeper depths of unlawful activities especially smuggling of spirit and bootlegging. Among the underlings are Ganga/Gangadharan and Krishnan who both are friends for life and perhaps the dearest to Balan. Even though Ganga and Krishnan are hand in glove with each other they donot see eye to eye when it comes to winning the heart of their sweetheart Anitha.
WINDS OF CHANGE
As the agrarian Kammattipaadam changes ushering in Capital, greed sneaks in unnoticed, producing terrible consequences on the landscape throwing lives out of gear for the inhabitants. Johny and his gang come up challenging the monopoly of Balan and his boys giving the latter a run for their money. Surendran, the Machiavellian kingpin, smells an opportunity and branches out into the promising real estate and has his fingers in every conceivable business pie which investment capital brings along. For the sake of trampling opposition to the new apartment projects, Balan and his boys, under Surendran’s orders, ruthlessly evict those who inhabited the hitherto fields of Kammattipaadam forcing Balan’s grandfather to chastise him. Balan’s disrespectful behavior towards him and his lack of remorse in evicting their own blood relatives pains his grandfather leading to his heartrending death.
The defiant Balan, all grown up and with a family now, undergoes a sudden alcohol induced change of heart due to the poignant death of his grandfather and calls it quits on his criminal ways. Meanwhile, Johny double crosses Balan again by informing the Excise Dept. about latter’s s lorry carrying smuggled spirit culminating in Balan’s death. Growing up, Ganga and Krishnan, despite the camaraderie, fallout since neither is willing to give up the damsel Anitha. The gangs of Kammattipaadam gets their revenge on Johny for brutally killing Balan. Ganga continues his walk on the path of violence while Krishnan, due to some unfortunate turn of events goes behind the bars. Upon release he packs his bags and moves to Bombay leaving his past behind. After decades Krishnan is forced to come back in search of a missing Ganga due to an SOS call he received from the latter. As Krishnan goes about searching Ganga and his whereabouts, he rediscovers the transformed world he left behind and the secrets which it is holding back.
WHAT DOESN’T MEET THE EYE
THE BLOODY AND SAVAGE TRANSITION
The rural Kammattipaadam and its prime identity: the fertile paddy fields are on steady retreat, as the movie rolls forward, due to intruding skyscrapers and apartments making way for the notion of urban. Due to these intrusions, it is clearly visible that agriculture loses its sheen since land has found a new use in the form of a booming real estate business. As land and the way it is put to use changes, a resultant change in identities, ideologies, social relations and occupation follow in its wake. Far from the toil and patience which are the prerequisites of agriculture, all it requires for the rising real estate is capital investment which has the bright prospects of earning you profit in a jiffy. Agriculture is a more refined practice evolved to meet the genuine needs of the community on the premise upon which the land is shaped. Whereas, real estate barely scratches the land surface and shapes the land based on the vested interests of a few. Agriculture shapes the community but the business of real estate mercilessly crushes the community for the sake of earning profit. In the main, agriculture is painstaking, scrupulous and sustainable and established firmly on the fundamentals of solidarity based on inclusivity and sustainability but real estate is haphazard, unjust, parochial and promotes shortermism.
GENERATIONS COME AND GENERATIONS GO
The ones who broke their backs in the fields, the older generation comprising Balan’s grandfather, cannot find a compelling reason to attract, the younger generation towards the traditional occupation of agriculture. The new generation represented by Balan and carried on by Ganga,his younger brother, have nothing but despise for the minimalist older generation. Whereas his grandfather and his generation has lead a life of simplicity and contentment based on solidarity and inclusivity, Balan and Ganga are driven by notions of power,aggrandizement and individualism. Balan survives in a dog eat dog world, driven by bloodshed, rivalries and profits, from which his grandfather wants to veer him away. He desperately tries to maintain the solidarity of the kin group and the larger community. Things come to such a pass that Balan lashes out at his grandfather for not earning anything substantial for the present generation and warns his own blood relatives of dire consequences if they don’t voluntary give up their land for a new real estate project. This profoundly heated conversation, which was my favorite scene in the movie, reveals the distance between them created by time, making Grandfather and his principles diametrically opposite to the ideologies of Balan. Later Balan undergoes a change of heart, owing to his grandfather’s poignant death, but its too little and too late to make a turnaround.
THE PLIGHT OF WOMEN IN A MACHO WORLD
Men rule the roost in Kammattipaadam. Be it in the rural setting largely based on sexual division of labour or the changed urban milieu where women are just playthings in the hands of men. In the rural atmosphere, women are confined largely to their houses preoccupied with their daily chores and are always seen accompanied by men when they venture out. Whereas the men work semi naked in the fields, bond over toddy, engage in violence and decide what’s good for the family and their spouses. Things doesn’t change once the urban arrives. The men are shown half naked in many scenes, dancing, boasting and abusing each other under the influence of alcohol while women are sidelined, denied autonomy and dispensed off.
ALL IS FAIR IN LOVE…..
Ganga and Krishnan fight for the same girl based on different claims. Ganga’s claim on the girl is based on his right of marriage as a blood relative. He is not bothered about gaining the girl’s permission or dismisses any thoughts about what’s in her mind. Ganga hates to see her step out of the home or talk with other boys and is a control freak to the core. Krishnan patiently gives an ear to her but never follows her advice to get reformed. At the same time Krishnan coerces her to confront Ganga about their love which he doesn’t do himself. He calls her out of the blue to elope but due to the intervention of fate Krishnan cannot carry out the plan. He packs his bags, moves to Bombay, buries his past and forgets her conveniently. And even in the present, Krishnan comes back home to search for Ganga and not in search of the girl. For Krishnan, his siter is a burden to be married off before she elopes with someone but in reality he was the one who tried and failed. Mothers‘ pleas fall on deaf ears, sisters’ are burdens, and your love interest is to be controlled and toyed around. Only exception could be Rosamma who is Balan’s wife and shown in the post Kammattippadam world as being independent.
BAD HEROES GLAMOURIZE FLAWS
It really matters who we admire, because celebrities influence our attitude, ideas and conduct especially the young and evolving minds. And bad heroes give glamour to flaws of character. Ganga and Krishnan, from a very young age, start admiring the swashbuckling Balan and his violent ways.Everything goes downhill from there. As kids they witness a murder and they are even seen tiptoeing another notorious rowdy. When they turn adolescent, their conduct changes for the worst making them part of brawls and fisticuffs in the streets. Soon they become trusted lieutenants of Balan and become known as the gangs of Kammattipaadam. They come to romanticize violence and gore emulating their idol Balan. They get tutored to stage a perfect stab and gulp down even the most fiery liquor in one gulp. When they turn men, apart from ill temper, machismo and alcohol for company, lethal weapons too get thrusted into their hands. Krishnan outshines others and graduates to the next level by going behind the bars. Instead of reflecting upon the futility of violence in forced isolation and getting reformed, Krishnan is seen beating up some inmates and creating ruckus in the jail.
LIVE BY THE SWORD, DIE BY THE SWORD
As adrenaline rushes up their veins quenching the thirst for revenge, their fathers, mothers, sisters and lovers become mere onlookers. Their umpteen efforts to bring back the lives of their children to normal fails as they watch them being lead astray. Despite the change of heart shown first by Balan and then by Krishnan and Ganga to lead a normal, sedentary life they cannot step into the normal world since their sins revisit them pulling them back into the vicious circle of violence once again.They realize the futility of their notorious ways with heavy costs. Balan loses his grandfather first and then the whole community while Krishnan loses his lady love. Balan and Ganga meet their maker as a consequence of sheer primitive violence.
STRAY DOGS HAVE NO MASTERS
Symbolically, Balan and his men are mere stray dogs who are the beck and call of their masters. They stay loyal to their master but the latter just dispense them off at will. These dogs bark, growl and bite on their master’s command and receive crumbs in return. It is interesting to note that Surendran the kingpin and Balan his loyal dog start from humble beginnings but end up in different places. Surendran is scheming and climbs up the power ladder by his sheer Machiavellianism. On the other hand, Balan is simple and ignorant; stays loyal and dies loyal. A menacing Balan, clad only in an underwear,is seen taking on multiple men singlehandedly over an issue of selling movie tickets illegitimately in the background of a movie poster titled Raajavinte Makan/Son Of A King alluding romantically to the rise of Balan, the new prince. But the reality is far away from romance since Balan is neither a king nor a prince but a mere stray dog living off his master’s mercy. It couldn’t be more stark!!
Balan’s anger and ignorance packed a punch and served as a stepping stone for Surendran’s megalomaniacal dreams. Balan ignorantly destroy his community through forced evictions and illegal acquisitions helping Surendran become a modern real estate moghul. In the process Surendran’s wealth, power and prestige travels north catapulting him to the who is who of the modern Eranakulam city. While Balan’s status diminishes in the eyes of his community and the law forcing him to think about leading a humble life before his untimely death. His dignity, manliness and stature travels south and is back to where he started before his death.The shrewd Surendran ensures that stray dogs live, survive and die in the lowly streets. Instead of lifting Balan up along his rise, he pits him against another ruffian Johny paying no attention to Balan’s brutal death. Balan lives and dies as a loyal dog without raising any questions but when Ganga threatens to raise a banner of revolt, Surendran gets rid of him in a cold blooded fashion reasoning that a stray dog which turns rabid should be got rid off.
FALL FROM THE SUMMIT
Surendran’s growth is symbolic of the posh apartment atop which he resides. Like the carefully constructed façade of the humungous concrete apartment, Surendran too has built his image meticulously to acquire power by improving his stature. Nevertheless, like the apartment which hides behind its beautiful façade the forced evictions, brutal murders and illegal acquisitions, Surendran too is hiding his shady past and violent ways inorder to pursue more refined interests of the modern world. Surendran’s fall from grace and eventual death at the hands of Krishnan for the brutal murder of Ganga proves indeed that stray dogs like them have no real masters but they lookout for each other and have loyalty for one another: What the real men from the older generation of Kammattipaadam once stood for!
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They say that the knowledge system in god’s own country can be broadly classified into two. The one which emerged from our own backyard, tracing its lineage to the Sangam heritage is dubbed the “Kaavu Parambaryam”/Traditional Knowledge. The other which had its birth up north, which migrated down south over the course of time was baptized the “Kshetra Parambaryam”/Heterogeneous Knowledge. It is through the tug of wars between these contrasting but vibrant systems that the language called Malayalam, the identity named Malayali and the state called Kerala as we know today came into existence. Kaavu, which is essentially Dravidian, imagines nature as sacred and unbound assimilating within its embrace the mores of the folkways. Driven more by commonsense, this knowledge tradition includes flourishing sacred groves, rudimentary idol worships, instrumental magic rituals backed by occult beliefs, unsophisticated but intricate arts and straightforward dance moves backed by oral tradition. The non systematic-practical learning rooted heavily in the vernacular completes the picture .
On the other hand, Kshetra parambaryam draws heavily from the migrant Aryan tradition which reached the southern tip of the subcontinent through flourishing contacts due to improved trade and flow of ideas by hermits and monks. In sharp contrast to the Kaavu, Kshethra parambaryam draws heavily on rationality, based on which a sacred space is demarcated based on formulas , a chosen god from an elaborate pantheon is placed, idol worship backed by detailed rituals are systematized, intricate art forms and sophisticated dance moves dubbed as classical are practiced by a chosen few within four walls. A non utilitarian educational system backed by the language of the gods completes the Kshetra parambaryam. In short Kaavu celebrates the ordinary son of the soil, his mundane ways of life in the open, celebrating and elevating his language and oral culture. But Kshetra parambaryam promotes the erudite Brahminical abilities and his devotion to pioneer, broaden and deepen his knowledge in various fields such as mathematics, astronomy, medicine and philosophy through god’s language all the while maintaining a monopoly.
Over the course of time, due to the rise and demise of various ruling dynasties, these divergent knowledge traditions evolved as a consequence of thriving contacts between the two resulting in a unique cultural syncreticsm. Even though the convergence between Kaavu parambaryam and Kshetra parambaryam was visible across various art and dance forms, it was more pronounced in Language as well as Festivals. Festivals especially Poorams in Kerala, from the outset, were fantastically designed rituals based on grandstanding, aimed at perpetuating the rule of the mighty.
Pooram, the equivalent of carnival in Europe, was an occasion for the subject class to forget their unbroken period of unshrinking labour from morning to sunset. Pooram was that occasion for a peasant which brought him some joy, colour, and moments of brightness in his otherwise dark, depressed and deprived life. For the ruling jenmi, it was an occasion to stamp his wherewithal to stage a larger than life spectacle which remains incomplete without an array of caparisoned elephants, the perambulation of the presiding deity, imposing pyrotechnics, generosity towards his subjects and magnanimity for the deviant ones. Hence on a Pooram day one can find the confluence of every conceivable forms of trade, tricks and personalities amidst a sea of humanity gathered at the rendezvous to witness the spectacle. Longstanding feuds are buried, egos are massaged, friendships are renewed, drunkards and fraudsters forgiven, deviants and iconoclasts are forgotten bringing together families, distant relatives, friends, kin groups and the society as a whole.
In many ways it is an ingenious way of sending out a message to the subjects about who the real ruler is by an ostentatious display of power and wealth. Lost in the sheer joy of the moment and reliving them in the future, the subjects pledge their allegiance to masters voluntarily than by coercion. This stabilized the kingdoms against threats from within in the form of grass-root protests and rebellions. Thus the power of the mighty is sealed for eternity. This oversimplified picture gets more complex when we bring into frame the effect of heterogeneous cultures from across the seas like Christianity and Islam having strong influence on the society. We dont need to necessarily pick sides here because this is how objective historical forces bring together people resulting in cultural assimilation which gets reflected in changes across visible and invisible spectrums of a society. You just need to be subjectively aware of these objective forces acknowledging that reality is chaotic and dynamic!!
This is a mish mash of some trains of thoughts which chugged along the nerves in my grey matter during a Hartal Day in the past. The above syndrome gets all the more worse when I am famished. It is just an attempt to scribble them down before they disappear and these are pure possibilities based on what I have read and heard from books and great minds over a period of time!
December 11 2016.
I was commuting along the Marina Beach Road when a pleasant onshore breeze, travelling afar from the Bay of Bengal, caressed my face whispering the message it had carried all along in my ears.
“Tonight, I will switch gears and am planning to wreak havoc on your coastal city” said the breeze with concern running all over its visage.
“Out of the question.” I retorted with uncharacteristic nonchalance. “You will lose your steam before the landfall or veer away to any other destination. So, stop being delusional.”
Arching its brows the breeze blustered: “You stupido, where will you run to if I hit the town with all my fury?” “No place is good enough to hide and nowhere will you be able to run.”
“The State”, I said haughtily, “is aware of your metamorphosis and will warn us about your impending onset.””They will track you, predicting you from head to toe, damaging your reputation as the agent of chaos.”
With a malevolent grin the breeze shot back: “I will shred all the wires, disfigure the electricity, plunge you into darkness and isolate you from your unassailable state.” “I will make the State go weak in the knees”
“Oh Boy! Rather than being lonely, I will simply let my Smart Phone do all the talking! ” “They are designed to bridge the gap you see!”The arrogantly confident technocrat in me barked at the breeze.
Fuming, the Breeze said: “I will make all your towers of Babel bite the dust tonight. When you wake up, you will be as good as stranded!””Brace yourselves to soliloquize from dawn to dusk.”
”My Car will still take me to my friends swiftly. “ Scoring one over the breeze, I declared proudly: “All I need is to get in and switch it on! ””Not even the greatest tempest can defy the indefatigable spirit of human ingenuity.”
“I derive extreme pleasure by turning container trucks turtle.” “And stopping locomotive engines in their tracks…..oooh… I can do it all day long, just for fun”, laughed the breeze deliriously. “I will disfigure the car outpacing it simultaneously. ” pooh poohed the breeze.
“Well Thank You Very Much for the hagiography!” Gathering my last ounce of courage, I replied: “If that’s the case, then I will walk and reach my destination.”
“I will uproot the trees blocking your right of way or better fling them on the houses around you, you imbecile human.” said the enraged breeze.
I was tongue tied and to win the war of words, I replied out of my last hope: “If not my friends, I will still jump over the wall and reach my neighbor’s house.”
“Well, if that is the case, I will make your neighbor pay the price!!” said the breeze dismissing my argument prematurely.
Before I could pick up the pieces, the breeze thundered:
“I will strike upon you with great vengeance and furious anger and destroy those who try to halt me and you will know my name when I will lay my wrath upon you and your neighbors.” “As darkness descends upon your city, fear will climb up your body conquering your soul, making you shiver like a leaf!”
Ignoring the fear trying to wrap me in a bear hug, I said:”My city is an unbreachable fortress! Come hell or high water, we will defend it to the hilt.”
I was at my wits end when the parting shot came:
“I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to absolutely nobody for the vandalism I will visit upon your city. So Long!”
When the breeze bid adieu an awkward silence merged with an eerie calmness.
To Be Continued………….
Picture Courtsey: NASA
The thundering of the Breeze and the parting shot of the same are inspired by Samuel L Jackson’s Ezekiel and Connor Mcgreggor’s famous quip respectively.