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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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