oct 10th, 2007
this will be of interest mostly to malayalam speakers, but i urge you to read anyway.
sreeraman, although a communist, was a brilliant short-story writer. i have a slim volume of his, about 120 pages, a collection of his stories, and out of this came THREE award-winning and very impressive films!
1. chidambaram. a masterpiece on crime and punishment by g aravindan. an affair between a married tamil village girl (smita patil) and a supervisor (gopi) in a high-ranges cattle station leads to her being hacked to death by her husband. the guilt-stricken gopi flees, and tries to drown his sorrows in mortifying his body. then he arrives at the great temple at chidambaram, and there he finds her, bearing the scars of the sickle, as the woman looking after pilgrims' footwear. but is it really her? has he been forgiven? after seeing this film, i wanted to see the temple; i went there years later, and it is my favorite temple in tamil nadu.
2. vaastuhara. another masterpiece by g aravindan exploring the themes of loss and extinction. set in bengal after the 1971 exodus of hindus from east bengal as part of the genocide there. the refugees are to be resettled in the andamans. mohanlal is the refugee officer (as c v sreeraman had been in real life) assigning them lands and guiding them on board the ships in calcutta. mohanlal meets a woman who turns out to be his late uncle's bengali wife, and her naxalite daughter on the run (neena gupta). the refugees are people with nothing, not even self-image, hence vaastu-hara in addition to vastu-hara (without possessions).
parenthetically, this, of course, is the fate shortly awaiting kerala hindus, as the mohammedans and christists ethnically cleanse us and force us to convert, die or flee. where we will go i don't know.
3. ponthan mada. an award-winning film by t v chandran. i haven't seen it.
and then sreeraman had a remarkable and deeply symbolic cameo appearance in the superlative 'piravi', the film based on the life and death of rajan, and his father eachara warrier. in perhaps the most heart-breaking scene in this extraordinary film about the management of grief -- it is the most moving film i have ever seen -- sreeraman is the ferryman caught in a dilemma. in pouring rain, the old man (80+ year old premji) is walking off blindly in his grief, and is in danger of falling. but if the ferryman rushes to help him, his livelihood, his boat, will be swept away by the roaring waters. what is he to do? what would you do?
piravi, directed by ace cinematographer shaji karun, has also captured kerala in the rains like no other film. you see it, and you'll realize why kerala really *is* god's own country in the monsoons.
i wrote reviews of piravi, vaastuhara and chidambaram more than a decade ago. they are all outstanding films.