Monday, January 8, 2018

ThondiMuthalum Dhriksakshiyum

A million metaphors - emotional and otherwise - could be read into the stolen thaalimaala*  that needs to be extricated out of the thief's faeces. But, pursuing those non existent tropes, as Sreeja in the crucial staircase landing scene says,  "is not worth it".

The necklace, and the immediate characters chained by it are mere backdrops. Backdrops for other seemingly insignificant  ones that form part of an ensemble cast to present a kaleidoscopic canvas.  Like the absent peepal tree; the solar panel scape; the flirting seminary student; the police station enveloped by the school, temple and the mosque; the game of kabbadi; the temple festival and the innate politics that also demands the water carrier to be kept in lock up at the request of his wife and mother; hungry childhood;  the cancerous mobile tower that gnaws into relationships and disconnects people; man without  ID making porottas in Mangalore, cop who authoritatively cracks the most difficult cases but cant figure out the switch for the ceiling fan in his own station; the barren land that doesnt help the poor tobacco farmer, the ironing board that doubles up as a cot; the girl brushing her teeth echoing the anger of entire feminine world ; waterways and the ferries....

The fact that the necklace is just a backdrop is established in the very first scenes itself. When, even as the hero and heroine in the stage drama are seriously worried about their personal life, Prasad moves away, relegating their issues to the background and walks into his own story.

And that story has several intertwined fissures - of politics, caste, religion, domestic, personal - lying beneath the case of the missing necklace.
The first faultline in the couple's relationship is exposed when Prasad 'blames' Sreeja for her carelessness. In a clever flashback, in the very next scene, we are led to find the deep roots of that rift.

A casual remark pointed at Sreeja's mother during a street rally ( supposedly by an organisation identified with Prasad's caste ) triggers Sreeja's mother on a tangential flight to encounter Sreeja  in her home. Straight lines, like those  from the street (society) to the house (family) and to the (personal), private space of toilet where Sreeja hides to escape from the blows of her parents criss cross the movie proving to be its skeleton structure . (The case of the missing necklace itself is brought into the police station as part of a very long straight line with an absurd purpose of carrying water to the station). The brute force with which Sreeja's father violates her personal space ends up as the deciding factor that influences the couple to take a marital plunge.

The thief  brings out deep punctures not only within the Sreeja Prasad couple, but in the police station and the neighbouring  temple too.  Through the station window, when he predicts an impending fight among the festival crowd, one has reasons to assume it is he who orchestrates the happenings.

The inner turmoils that the thief brings out from the Chandrans household is as important as it is similar to that of the Prasads. In fact, the thief doesnt differentiate between the two couples at all. His claim of returning the necklace to Chandran and Chandran's attempt to pass off  his wife's necklace as Sreeja's blurs the line differentiating these two couples.

From his elevated, vantage position at the upper floor room of the Police Station, through the diagonally opposite windows ( one among them with a mirror)  the thief views both the couples mingling with the street crowd. That carefully crafted sequence positions the thief as the benevolent adjudicator whose duty it is to offer deliverance to both the couples.

And he delivers. With panache.

 In one of the finest examples of montage, Chandran's wife implores him to "go to their daughter(in law)" . Next scene cuts to Chandran visiting Sreeja and Prasad. And even addresses her as 'daughter'. A daughter and another father find and fill each other's voids.

Part 2

It is natural for Dileesh's second movie to be compared with his first. But, a comparision with another movie (directed by Rajeev Ravi, cinematographer of Thondimuthalum ) offers immense possibilities.

Apart from the titular conjunction and Rajeev Ravi as the more visible common denominators , lot of other similarities do exist.

In both the movies, the couple relocate to a different geography. Anna and Rasool move to the red flag spangled  hilly terrain. Prasad and Sreeja move from the waterlogged Allepey to the borderlands of Kasaragode which is painted saffron.

Annayum Rasoolum opens with the police verification for Rasool's brother to get his passport. His (lack of ) identity is a running thread all along the movie. The thief in Thondimuthalum Dhrisaakshiyum too doesnt have an identity. And he steals Prasad's identity. 

The reflection that the thief sees of himself in the mirror and the shadow that Sreeja's husband sees of the thief in subsequent scene reminds one of Vishwanathan and Uthaman from Padmarajan's Aparan. The interchangeability or merging of these two identities could elevate the movie, especially the race and fight scenes of the latter part to a whole new dimension. 

Of interest is the delivery of prasadam on a couple of occasions. In the latter part of the movie, Sreeja's husband (Prasad) gets the prasaadam but not  the thief (Prasad). 

The waterways, ferry and expression of love.
Water itself is a recurring motif, in both the movies. In her absence, and after her death too, Rasool goes underwater to 'see' Anna. Prasad and Sreeja have their future bound to the ground water that fails to make an appearance till the thief delivers them their necklace. Most of the intense scenes  between Anna and Rasool happens in the ferry boats. Prasad and Sreeja take off from where Anna and Rasool left it. Lot of cleansing by water happens in Thondimuthal too.

Politics of Religion and Caste.
Religion stood between Anna and Rasool. It was caste in Sreeja's case. Even Prasad's father, who belonged to a time different from  the present one in which revolutions have stamped their presence would not have approved of such an union.

"പെണ്ണ് ധൈര്യം കാണിക്കാതെ ലോകത്ത് ഇന്നേ വരെ ഒരു പ്രേമ വിവാഹവും നടന്നിട്ടില്ല "

The end
In both the movies, characters played by Fahad end up walking contentedly in a distant north Indian city.  

Does anatomizing a movie kill it while watching?

Even as the drama is being played inside the police station, people outside are seen making preparations for the temple festival. 

And, unknown to each other, Mrs Chandran is seated next to Sreeja, waiting for her husband to take her to the temple.

Visuals of school, children help the thief make decisions.

Details like these and many more are intentionally placed. Missing them would be a far more insult to the movie than dissecting it. 

* (mangalsutra, the Indian wedding ring equivalent - necklace worn by the bride)

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