Archive for the ‘Talkies’ Category

Oru Mutthashi Gadha: A Rowdy’s Bucket List!   16 comments

A Review Of Sorts

A Granny's Mace/Oru Mutthashi Gadha

                           A Granny’s Mace/Oru Mutthashi Gadha

WHAT MEETS THE EYE

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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.

 

Oru Mutthasshi Gadha/ A Granny's Mace

  Oru Mutthasshi Gadha/ A                 Granny’s Mace

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.

 

Oru Mutthashi Gadha/A Granny's Mace

Oru Mutthashi Gadha/A                    Granny’s Mace

 

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

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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.

 

Oru Mutthashi Gadha/A Granny's Mace

Oru Mutthashi Gadha/A                 Granny’s Mace

WHITHER TECHNOLOGY?

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.

 

Oru Mutthashi Gadha/A Granny's Mace

      Oru Mutthashi Gadha/A Granny’s Mace

 

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.

 

Oru Mutthasshi Gadha/A Granny's Mace

Oru Mutthasshi Gadha/A             Granny’s Mace

 

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!

 

Oru Mutthasshi Gadha/ A Granny's Mace

Oru Mutthasshi Gadha/ A          Granny’s Mace

Please visit Wikipedia for more details about the movie

For a more comprehensive and conventional review please visit THE MOVIES OF THE  SOUL

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The Post Modern Society and its connect with Media is inspired from HARALAMBOS & HOLBORN.

Image Courtsey

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“Kammattipaadam: Stray Dogs Have No Masters.”   13 comments

A Review Of Sorts 

Check out the Trailer of the  Movie

                                                          Check Out The Trailer of the  Movie Kammattipaadam

WHAT MEETS THE EYE

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AGRARIAN MINIMALISM

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.

 

Kammattipaadam

                     Kammattipaadam

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

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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.

 

Kammattipaadam

                       Kammattipaadam

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.

 

Kammattipaadam

Kammattipaadam

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.

 

Kammattipaadam

         Kammattipaadam

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.

 

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                       Kammattipaadam

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.

 

Kammattipaadam

                                                 Kammattipaadam

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!

 

Kammattipaadam First Look Poster

Kammattipaadam First Look                      Poster

For a more conventional and comprehensive review please visit Movies Of The Soul

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“Guppy”: The State And The Subaltern.   5 comments

[ A Review Of Sorts ]

 

Image Courtesy: Internet

The Malayalam Movie Titled “guppy” 

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WHAT MEETS THE EYE

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THE SUBALTERN SETTING

Anthoniappan Colony is  a nondescript settlement hemmed in between the  sea coast on one side and a  railtrack besides a highway with a hill in the backdrop on the other. Like any other settlement which sprouts across a changing Indian landscape as a consequence of growing urbanization, Anthoniappan colony is a living embodiment of an average census town of our country. It has narrow lanes and by lanes punctuated by dilapidated cars doubling as rendezvous, low level entrepreneurs selling their trade and the usual hustle and bustle as the day rolls forward. Houses big and small alongside crude structures vying to attain the status of home complete the picture. The colony’s cup of woes overflows when we bring in the eternally haphazard civic amenities into the equation. What breaks the above mentioned standard image of an ordinary colony is broken when you bring the inhabitants into the picture.

HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES

Instead of licking their wounds, the residents of the colony, hardened by the sea breeze and wrought by the land, survive by sheer grit and frugal innovations.  They eke out a living either by venturing into the sea or doing odd jobs over land to make ends meet. Nevertheless, the identity of any place is fashioned by its inhabitants through their relentless efforts to shape the land as well as themselves by crafting their own culture. The colony doubles as a vast canvass on which their flair finds and outlet for display. Hence graffiti and paintings adds a twist or two to the mundane walls, some lanes host concerts by musical bands and the beach often turns into football fields. This creativity hits the crescendo when the year draws to a close making way for Christmas which is celebrated in their own grandiose but inimitable way.

 

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MAMA’S ANGEL

Representative of the spirit of the colony is the boy who goes  by the name ”GUPPY”. Guppy is in his early teens and shows signs of responsibility as well as recklessness in  equal measure. His world of  responsibility revolves around his widowed and disabled mother. Every deed in his  mature world  is aimed  at soothing  her life and he even draws inspiration from popular culture to attain the  same. Her mother provides the much needed healing touch which  mellows him greatly. These factors results in an everyday routine which ensures that he wakes  up before the day break and assume many identities over the  course of  the day. After being a newspaper boy in the dawn he goes on to become a fish breeder as well as a helper in a wayside tea shop until dusk. This cycle of responsibility nears  completion when he comes back home to help her  mother perform her daily routines. Part of  this small but benevolent  world is  the explicitly corrupt but  benign panchayath employee Lalichan, the good at  heart tea shop owner Paappan, the erudite old  man in  the tea shop Tinku, the school girl who regularly buys guppies and the store  owner Joseph who sells  wheelchairs .

MINNOW’S MISADVENTURES

Intervening his world of responsibility is the foolhardy world which has him joining his four happy go lucky friends wandering with their never ending misadventures.  This world of  Guppy is driven  primarily by adolescent  curiosity and a  sense of  teenage rebellion owing essentially to the lack of schooling. Their joyrides ranges from seeking out the help of  a wannabe politician Onachan, ogling at the niqab clad school going beauty Aamina, peeping  into the sex life of others and  discovering erotica through pulp fiction. When the plot thickens Guppy undergoes severe emotional turmoil owing to the relentless clash of these contrasting worlds trying to establish their hegemony over his decisions and actions. At one point guppy’s lust  for  revenge makes him seek out the help of a  local thug Venda Sabu just to  gain  an  upper hand over his nemesis. As the movie nears towards an end guppy struggles to arrive at decisions. Whether he will stick to the path of love, forgiveness and a sense  of  purpose in life guided by his mother or  go down the beaten track of  hatred, vengeance and blood lust becomes the process  through which guppy comes  of age.

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THE JANUS FACED ENGINEER

Guppy’s universe goes  for  a  toss when the enigmatic  engineer Tejas Varky from Roads And Bridges Corporation comes to the colony to lead an over bridge project. Varky shows traces of being a wandering free spirit with no strings  attached  but like Guppy he too succumbs often to streaks of  schadenfreude. As part of his free spirit, he always pines for the love of his family especially his daughter Malu whose thoughts he lives with. Always in the pink of health, Varky has insightful conversations with his man friday Chinnappa and treats his subordinates Krishnan and Lalichan with respect and ease. Averse to corruption he handpicks his projects and never burdens his assistants once the project goes on floor. Streaks of  villainy appears when he schemes plots for  extracting revenge on  Guppy by manipulating his subordinates through self interested use of power. His  reluctance to  listen to and  have a conversation with the man operating  the railway gate, his humongous ego wanting to  make  Guppy beg and cry in front of him and his tendency to jump to conclusions without giving any thoughts marks the unbecoming of  the free spirited Tejas  Varky. This makes us  feel  that he too is a mere  mortal after all. Whether he lets go of his ego by burying the hatchet with whose lives he and his actions affect or will he rain down his fury upon them is traced over the course  of  the movie. Caught between the  tug of  war between Guppy the boy and the engineer Tejas  Varky are some souls who need to choose sides as their conflicts  escalate.

 

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WHAT DOESN’T MEET THE EYE

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GUPPY’S LIFE IN THE DRAINAGE

By all accounts, Guppy the fish is a midget and will always comes as an afterthought in the  pecking  order of  ornamental fishes to beautify huge aquariums. Despite its  miniature size and  expendable nature, Guppy serves an important purpose. This midget gem feeds on  mosquito larvae and  prevents their breeding thereby controlling malarial outbreak.  Hence eventhough ornamental the singlemost purpose of the fish, in the eyes of the authorities, is to kill mosquitoes. So the rightful place for Guppies is not any colorful, giant aquariums in posh villas but  the grim, dark, dirty drainages and  dilapidated canals dotting the cityscape. What goes on inside the canals or drainages is not even a concern for the authorities and they feign ignorance about the dangers if any. The poor midget guppies have to prey on the available mosquitoes and escape higher order predators like snakes and  frogs in an  overwhelmingly dark and dirty milieu. Their fate, at best, is  uncertain.

THE HUMAN GUPPIES IN THE COLONY

  Likewise, the Anthoniappan colony is drainage where numerous guppies in human form survive. They serve the vital purpose of serving their masters by performing jobs ranging from the dirty contract killings to the temporary and menial railway gate operations. Even though their ephemeral contributions are indispensable, their primary purpose, through the eyes of political power, is to serve as mere vote banks. Hence vested interests keep them in the dark by cultivating their ignorance.  They give varied hues to their dreams through empty promises prompting them to hope for a better future. One way through which the vested interests ensure this is by making sure that nobody leaves the drainage called Anthoniappan colony but survives within it. Another way this is done is through the conscious denial of education. The thought of schooling never crosses the minds of the teens or the grownups around them despite the former spending an awful lot of time outside the walls of the school. The future of the bright girl Aamina, who is a lovely exception to the above rule is mired in uncertainty, conveys the great many struggles involved in leaving the drainage and aspiring for a dignified life. Hence the higher order predators of the drainage namely the venal government servants and the local wannabe politicians’ prey upon their ignorance creating artificial needs to thrive. What goes on inside the drainage is of no consequence for the state and hence they pay no attention to the exploitation. Those who die inside the drainage are replaced by others since they are expendables.

 

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IDENTITY AND THE LACK OF IT

Guppy on one level reflects upon identity and the lack of it. Nobody knows the real name of the boy barring a few and they barely use it to address him. Guppy’s identity gets more fluid when he slips from one occupation to another without really identifying with any and his lack of educational qualifications adds to this as well. Despite showing glimpses of artistic flair recognized by a few, he could easily be labeled a criminal since he flirts with his unruly friends. The chances of  guppy becoming an acclaimed  artist  is as good as dead but of him going down the  criminal path or becoming a nobody is as bright as the sun. When these fluid identities and multiple labels of guppy is weighed against Tejas Varky, the latter emerges with flying colors. Despite being an intrepid wanderer and an engineer with great credentials, his permanent identity is that of a senior servant of state executing a high profile project. His world is thus enabled by the powerful state apparatus consisting of the panchayath office, coercive police force and his discretionary powers. These are his qualifications which have earned him name and fame in the society: a permanent identity. It is from this permanent identity, recognized by the state and the society, that he derives the gumption to harass guppy and still manages to stay unscathed.

STATE AND THE EMINENT DOMAIN

Another layer of the narrative explores the disparity in power through the instrument of state. The eminent domain enables the state to  decide  what is good for the colony inhabitants. Far away from ensuring  their welfare by finding everlasting solutions to their basic  civic problems, the state resorts to grand standing. It,thus,arrives at the conclusion that colony desperately need an over bridge. The power to  dictate what is good for  them is implemented  through an inept bureaucracy, corrupt grassroot governance and a coercive  police force. Those who misuse their discretionary  powers, from the engineer to  the pachayath officials, are visible  and  explicitly do  so. Tejas Varky does this when he unscrupulously uses his discretion to  widen  a road and trammel the tea shop as well as the boy’s makeshift fish breeding spot. Before the ink dries on the paper he arrives  with his crew in tow to demolish the spot without extending a moratorium to  shift the boy’s  source of  livelihood. His very act of hammering and breaking the wall of the boy’s fish breeding spot and  the subsequent death of the guppies is  symbolic of state’s attitude of  trammeling any opposition and the insignificance of the lives of  the powerless.

 

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POWER AND THE LACK OF IT

But those who question this  unbridled exercise of power are  implicit. Hence Aamina’s grandfather doesn’t get an audience, the tea shop owner’s pleas to spare the spot are ignored and others are gagged forcing them to take desperate measures to stop the misuse of power. As Anthoniappan colony begins its forced tryst with modernity driven by vested interests in the guise of an overbridge, it is nowhere near the stairway to heaven as promised. The State is infact envisaging a future which completely bypasses the colony, its inhabitants, their struggles, pleas and dreams, gleefully forgetting their minor but important contributions which can be replaced at will. Their futures are uncertain akin to Aamina’s probabilities of studying in an engineering college or Guppy becoming a somebody in life. The powerful, by preying upon the powerless makes a mockery of democracy where power is derived  from  the  powerless millions. Helpless souls are just counted as mere vote banks who can be laid by the wayside and not weighed as dignified human beings.

OUR NOBLE SELVES

 Towards the end Guppy realizes his follies and his timely intervention saves his arch enemy. The latter on the  other hand salvages himself by refusing to  testify against the man behind his attempt on  life. Both Guppy and Tejas Varky bids adieu to vengeance and egocentrism embracing forgiveness and empathy tightly. As the movie nears towards its end an insightful conversation unfolds between the engineer and the man at the railway gate: the quintessential conversation representing the state and the subaltern respectively. Such conversations, where the state patiently listens, understands and addresses the travails of the plebians are the need of the hour. The void in guppy’s life is filled by the engineer and together they bid adieu to loneliness and their identities as orphans. Strip down the movie to its core and the message gets loud and clear: Despite what surrounds you materially and what shapes you emotionally, we all are inherently good and all it takes is a conversation or two or realize our follies and fall back to what we really are: EMPATHETIC HUMAN BEINGS WITH PURE SOULS! Throughout the run time I was really worried about Guppy and his future and the ending scene warmed the cockles of my heart!!!

 

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“guppy”

For a more comprehensive and conventional review please visit Movies Of The Soul

After a long time I witnessed a rare unanimity of opinion about this movie in youtube. I couldn't agree more!!

After a long time I witnessed a rare unanimity of opinion about this movie in youtube. I couldn’t agree more!!

 

Posted December 19, 2016 by Aneesh in Talkies, The Motley Crew

Tagged with , ,

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