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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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