Sunday, February 17, 2019

Kumbalangi Nights of Patriarchy

It is when Baby slaps the Shammi out of Bobby in the movie hall does he realise how hollow was his " ഞാൻ ഒരു  ആണ് ആണെടി" claim.

Saji's deliverance is  made out to be more divine. Was it Christ himself who came from heaven above to die for him?  Even if it is not so, Saji on his return from the police station waddles across a statue of Mary and Son. A few scenes later, only after  he brings them both home does he regain his senses.

And Bonny finds his voice finally , in Nylah. 

(They all were, like Frankie been dreaming of them- to derive stregth from and to redeem them from their തീട്ട പറമ്പ് )

Without those women, the brothers would have still been living in the shit hole.

തീട്ടംം (feaces) remains one of the central motifs of the movie. The catharsis happens when finally a toilet gets built in their house. It was when Frankie was supervising the construction of the toilet that Saji implores him to take him to the doctor. 

And then , the most beautiful montages of the movie.  When the psychiatrist digs deep into the brothers' past it is in Baby's palms that we read their history, their pain, their guilt, all etched in love by Bobby. Like their intertwining palms, all the multiple streams, layers of the movie assemble together to offer a different dimension. 


Two islands of ideology, with striking contradictions.

One that advocates purity ( "ഞാൻ ഒറ്റ തന്തയ്ക്കു പിറന്നവനാ" ), down to the tiniest speck- even if it is the wife's sindhoor that has to be flushed down the wash basin. One that dictates what others should play ( " net അടിച്ചു cricket കളിക്കൂ " ) , one that advices what one can eat, one that revels in its superiority over the rest  (  "  ഷമ്മി ഹീറോ ആണെടാ " ) and assumes the role of moral police.
And  one that deftly moves his throne into the vacant space and establishes the power seat of patriarchy under the shadow of the dead father's image- albeit around a dining table serving boori masala . One that barely conceals its lunacy beneath a menacing smile.

And the other with a culture that's diagonally opposite. ( " ഈ വീടിനു ഒരു സംസ്കാരം ഉണ്ട് " ) And of course it is the one that has the lable of പല തന്തയ്ക്കു പിറന്ന മക്കൾ . An ideology that does not discriminate against caste, creed or nationality. One that accepts a Tamil widow with her child and a black woman from a distant milieu. Or, Baby from the other island.

The denouement is when Baby exposes the myth (  " പല തന്തയ്ക്കു പിറക്കുന്നത് technically possible  അല്ല " ) and her sister strikes , with the ease of hitting a mosquito. Thats when the make believe foundations of patriarchy start to shiver as it  faces  resistance. Thats when the ugly face behind the pretense of family, heritage, culture  exposes itself, before being overcome -in a more cinematic fashion.

For more movie reviews and analysis: Subscribe to Magic Lantern Youtube channel

No comments: