കുമ്പളങ്ങിയിലെ യഥാർഥ മനോരോഗി ഷമ്മിയല്ല.#kumbalanginightsblues

 

 

നൗ ദാറ്റ് ഐ ലുക്ക് ബാക്ക് ഓൺ ഇറ്റ്, ഷമ്മി അല്ല ഷമ്മിടെ ചേട്ടൻ ആണ് പ്രശ്നം. ഹീറോയാണെന്നു സ്വയം വിളിച്ചു പറയുന്ന ഷമ്മി കാഴ്ചക്കാർക്ക് വില്ലൻ ആണെങ്കിലും ഒരു പക്ഷെ ശ്യാം പുഷ്കരന് വിക്ടിം ആയിരിക്കാം. ടോക്സിക്ക് മസ്കുലൈനിറ്റിയുടെ പ്രതീകമായ അവതരിക്കുന്ന ഷമ്മി ചിലപ്പോ അതിന്റെ ഇര ആണെങ്കിലോ? എഴുത്തുകാരൻ ഉന്നം വെയ്ക്കുന്ന സാമൂഹ്യ മനസ്ഥിതികളുടെ ഉടമ ശെരിക്കും ഷമ്മിയല്ല ഷമ്മിയുടെ ചേട്ടനാണ് എന്ന് ഇപ്പോ എനിക്ക് തോന്നുന്നു. ഷമ്മി ഒരു പ്രേക്ഷകൻ എന്ന നിലയിൽ എന്റെയും നിങ്ങളുടെയും വെറുപ്പ് പിടിച്ചു പറ്റിയിരുന്നു. മൂലയ്ക്ക് പോയി നിൽക്കുന്നത് വരെ. അവിടം തൊട്ടു വലയിൽ ആകുന്നത് വരെ ഷമ്മിയോട്‌ എനിക്ക് സഹതാപം ആണ് തോന്നിയത്. അവനു വട്ടാ എന്ന് സിമിയുടെ അമ്മയെ കൊണ്ട് ശ്യാം പുഷ്ക്കരൻ പറയിപ്പിച്ചപ്പോൾ ഞെട്ടൽ ആണ് ഉണ്ടായത്. അത് കൊണ്ടാണ് ക്ളൈമാക്സിലെ ഇൻസെന്സിറ്റിവിറ്റി ടു മെന്റൽ ഡിസോർഡേഴ്സ് എന്നെ ഡിസ്റ്റർബ് ചെയ്തു എന്ന് ഞാൻ എഴുതിയത്. അത് വരെ കണ്ട പുരോഗമന ചിന്തകളുടെ ആഖ്യാനങ്ങളെ ഒടുക്കം കാറ്റിൽ പറത്തി എന്നാണു എനിക്ക് തോന്നിയത്. എന്ത് കൊണ്ട് അത് ശ്യാം പുഷ്കരന്റെ തൂലികയിൽ നിന്ന് സംഭവിച്ചു എന്ന ചിന്തയാണ് ഒരാഴ്ചയ്ക്ക് ശേഷം എന്നെ ഷമ്മിയുടെ ചേട്ടനിൽ എത്തിച്ചത്. ശ്യാം പുഷ്ക്കരൻ സൂചനകൾ നൽകിയിരുന്നു എന്ന് എനിക്ക് ഇപ്പോൾ തോന്നുന്നു. ഷമ്മിയെ സ്വന്തം വീട്ടുകാർ ഒഴിവാക്കുകയാരുന്നു എന്ന് ഇപ്പോൾ ആണ് മനസിലായത്. ഷമ്മി ഭക്ഷണം കഴിക്കുന്ന പാത്രങ്ങൾ ഉൾപ്പടെ സിമിയുടെ വീട്ടിൽ എത്തിക്കുന്ന ചേട്ടൻ. അതെ ഒരു പക്ഷെ അത് ഷമ്മിയുടെ OCDയുടെ സൂചന ആയിരിക്കാം എന്നേ ഞാൻ അപ്പോൾ കരുതിയുള്ളൂ. ഭക്ഷണം കഴിക്കാൻ ക്ഷണിക്കുമ്പോൾ ചേട്ടൻ കാണിക്കുന്ന സ്നേഹശൂന്യമായ പ്രതികരണം പുള്ളിയുടെ വ്യക്തിത്വത്തിന്റെ സൂചന ആയിരുന്നിരിക്കാം. സ്വയം കമ്പ്ലീറ്റ് മാൻ ആയി കാണുന്ന ഷമ്മി പക്ഷെ താമസിക്കുന്നത് ഭാര്യവീട്ടിലാണ്. ഏകദേശം സ്വന്തം വീട്ടിൽ നിന്ന് അല്ലെങ്കിൽ ചേട്ടന്റെ വീട്ടിൽ നിന്ന് പടി അടച്ചു ഇറക്കി ഉപേക്ഷിക്കപ്പെട്ട അവസ്ഥ. ഷമ്മി അത് ന്യായീകരിക്കുന്നുണ്ട്. ഗൃഹനാഥന്റെ സ്ഥാനത്തേക്ക് തീന്മേശയിൽ കസേര വലിച്ചിടുന്ന ഷമ്മി ഒരു പക്ഷെ തനിക്കു ലഭിച്ച പുതിയ സ്വാതന്ത്ര്യത്തിന്റെയും അധികാരത്തിന്റെയും സൂചന ആയിരിക്കാം നൽകിയത്.ചേട്ടന്റെ കീഴിൽ തനിക്കു കിട്ടാതിരുന്നത് എല്ലാം സിമിയുടെ വീട്ടിൽ ഷമ്മി നേടുന്നു.കല്യാണം കഴിപ്പിച്ചു സ്വഭാവ വൈകല്യങ്ങൾ ചികിൽസിക്കുന്നത് ഒരു നാട്ടു നടപ്പാണല്ലോ. ചേട്ടനിൽ നിന്ന് ഷമ്മിക്ക് ലഭിച്ചിരുന്ന പരിഗണന എന്തായിരിക്കാം എന്ന് സിമിയുടെ ഫോൺ കോളിന് ഉള്ള പ്രതികരണത്തിൽ നിന്ന് മനസിലാക്കാം. മനോരോഗിയായ സഹോദരന് അർഹിക്കുന്ന പരിചരണം കൊടുക്കാതെ വിവാഹം കഴിപ്പിച്ചു ഒഴിവാക്കിയ ചേട്ടൻ വില്ലനും ഷമ്മിയെ വലയിട്ടു പിടിച്ച സഹോദരങ്ങൾ പൊതുസമൂഹവും ആയാൽ ഒരുപക്ഷെ കഥയിൽ നായകൻ അഥവാ ഹീറോ ഷമ്മി തന്നെ ആയിരിക്കാം.

Kumbalangi Nights : An Ensemble Of Great Visuals, Great Characters, Great Performances And Great Moments.

The names Fahadh Faasil, Soubin Shahir, Shyam Pushkaran, Shyju Khalid, Shane Nigam, Sreenath Bhasi and Dileesh Pothan in the credits for a single film, now that’s something you don’t get to see as often as you’d like to, if you happen to speak this language called Malayalam and have a thing for movies too. Ever since Aashiq Abu broke new ground in Malayalam Cinema a decade back we have seen subsets of these names coming together in every other film with someone from this unofficial collective of like minded artists, at the helm. These artists have played a role is establishing Kochi as the hub of Malayalam Cinema in the new century too, I think. People from this school of filmmaking were part of the teams that delivered gems like Maheshinte Prathikaram, Thondimuthalum Drikaskshiyum, Parava and Sudani From Nigeria, to name a few.  Shyam Pushkaran’s writing was something that you looked forward to, as much as to watching Fahadh working his magic, in recent times. Kumbalangi Nights looked promising early on for these very reasons exactly.

Set in the island village of Kumbalangi, which to me is familiar only as a nameboard on “ordinaries” and “fast passengers”- the flavours of the State bus service on offer to the commoner- the film tells the tale of a band of brothers from another mother, and father, to put it bluntly. It would be nothing less than a disrespect to the film itself if I start with any other aspect but the cinematography. If Shyju Khalid were to shoot your weeded backyard with his camera and then show it to you, you’d believe him if he told you that it was from a cottage set in the Swiss Alps. His frames make even the most ugliest structures look magnificent. The night shots are exquisite. It’s almost as if he has some kind of spell over light. Saiju Sreedharan works his magic too. The last time I saw a landscape so beautifully captured was in the Turkish film Once Upon A Time In Anatolia. Shyam Pushkaran’s writing has never taken us anywhere as viewers because his tales are set in places you have walked around yourself, youre at home, literally. It’s always far removed from the homes and social circles that we have come to accept as the norm in Malayalam Cinema over the years. There are deliberate attempts to break stereotypes and to infuse progressive narratives throughout here too, which is why the film disappointed me towards the end for it’s insensitive portrayal of mental illness. But that’s just me. Maybe it’s because the rest of the film is almost perfect why the climax hit me the way it did. Life in Shyam Pushkaran’s Kumbalangi is idyllic. The lives of the main protagonists are much like the tiny islands and groves where the story unfolds. They are isolated and aloof for most parts but they’re still an ecosystem that sustains eachother and do not have an existence on their own. This is ultimately the essence of the tale, I felt.

Soubhin Shahir, Shane Nigam, Sreenath Bhasi and Matthew Thomas play the brothers. Soubhin surprises us yet again with a moving portrayal. So does Shane Nigam. Sreenath Bhasi is subtle and effective. Matthew is the new kid on the block. But it’s Fahadh who is an enigma here. From playing lead in films as varied as Varathan and Njan Prakashan to playing second fiddle to a bunch of his peers here, that too as a character with absolutely no visible positive traits. He is indeed the antagonist here but you hardly notice that because you’re simply overawed by his performance. Debutante Anna Ben makes an impression in her girl next door avatar. Grace Antony plays sister to Anna’s and wife to Fahadh’s characters in a role that’s unlike that of the sisters and wives we have seen on the screen up till now, but are absoutely familiar with, in our daily lives. Madhu C.Narayan  makes his debut as a director and honestly, with names like Shyam Pushkaran, Dileesh Pothan, Shyju Khalid and Saiju Sreedharan aiding him in crucial departments, it’s too early to judge his skills as the man at the helm. There’s a Maddona and Child frame in the film at one point and if it’s indeed the director who actually conceived it, there’s promise I’d say.  Kumbalangi Nights is great cinema, almost.

Peranbu : Ram’s Gift To Mammooty, And Us.

Peranbu has been in the news for a while now. In the days leading up to the release of the film, what I came across mostly in my news feed on social media platforms were the rave reviews the lead actor’s performance had garnered in festival circuits and more recently the responses of his peers from the industry after the premiere. Media houses  these days have little option but to sing to the tune that the social media crowd plays, to keep their business afloat, and were no different in their coverage. It’s all good. But, to an average Malayali filmgoer, it’s nothing but overkill. I mean do we really need a revalidation of the skills of an actor who has delivered in films ranging from Thaniyavarthanam to Vidheyan to Rajamanikyam ? Yes, Mammooty  hasn’t had the best of times at the box office of late but that’s pretty much like Sachin going out to bat for the Indian cricket team of the late 90s, if you ask me. Sachin hits a century but the match is lost because his team lets him down. While the filmmakers closer to home are content with dressing Mammooty up and celebrating his sunglasses, Ram has made a film where this actor unparalleled gets to do what he does best, act his heart out that is.  Peranbu is what Mammooty the actor deserves and maybe even desires too. And believe me when I tell you that Mammooty does his best dance performance ever in a film too, in Peranbu.

You are in for a surprise if you thought that this was just another sob story about a parent and a differently abled child. Yes, there are intense emotions that will leave you disturbed, but there’s laughter too. Ram has used a unique narrative arc here to tell his tale. To draw an analogy it’s pretty much like being invited by someone into his home where he makes you comfortable, serves you tea, then knocks you on your head with a club and puts an icepack on it himself right before he sees you out. No, I’m not saying that Ram would be a psychotic sadist if he wasn’t making films, no. Narrated in a dozen chapters or so by Mammooty himself, Ram attributes different moods of nature to each of these chapters. The first half of the film is set in the woods. Beautifully shot, it’s up there with some of the best works in contemporary cinema, in terms of cinematography. The camera compliments not just the script, but the actors too in a process that is as organic as it gets. It’s masterful filmmaking by Ram here, when he gradually immerses the viewer into the landscape and the story being told. Aiding him in the task is a Yuvan Shankar Raja in fine form.  One of those rarest of rare cinematic experiences if you ask me. The second half of the film is set in a jungle of a different kind and one we are most familiar with, concrete. The mood of the tale shifts here too. The film doesn’t judge any of its characters, much like its main protagonist, Amudhavan. He is far from perfect and after having failed as a father and a husband, he is doing penance by trying to be a good father to his daughter. He forgives everyone, even the ones who have done him wrong. Though Ram addresses issues that have never been discussed in any public domain, let alone cinema, what he demands from his viewers ultimately is a reflection into their own lives, through Amudhavans eyes and experiences, as an individual and as a parent. Ram doesn’t have all the answers  to the questions he raises here, he merely suggests that compassion, Peranbu is all that our fellow beings need from us to cope with the greatest of tragedies.

More than his acting chops, it’s Mammooty’s decision to be part of Peranbu and the willingness to play Amudhavan as Ram dictated, unconditionally that deserves to be lauded I feel. In a scene, which I percieved was a single shot, he proves again why he is one of the best actors to have ever graced the screen. In another brief scene which would otherwise be insignificant, when a family alights from the taxi he drives, Mammooty conveys the whole crux of the film with just his expressions. Because it’s Ram, who conceived that scene and trusted Mammooty to deliver it exactly as he envisioned it as a director and writer, that we can safely say that Peranbu is first a Ram film and then a Mamooty film. But I couldn’t but help notice that maybe the film ended a bit too hastily considering the slow burner approach for most parts. The pace of the proceedings are perfectly  in sync with the mood of the story being told. I’m indeed speculating wildly when I say that the festival circuit cut was maybe a different one, especially towards the end. Sadhana, who plays Paapa has the most challenging role here, considering the fact that the portrayal would be subjected to much scrutiny. If a reference must be made, it’s Rani Mukherjee’s performance in Black, I’d say. Anjali makes an impression in a brief role as one of the women in Amudhavan’s life. Another significant addition to the cast is Anjali Ameer, a transgender actor who plays a prostitute in the film. Anjali Ameer excels in this niche role but it remains to be seen how  the industry welcomes her. Not every filmmaker is Ram and not every film is Peranbu. At the end of the day, that’s what we lack as a society the most, compassion and Ram holds a perfect mirror to it in this landmark film that will haunt us for long.

 

 

 

 

 

Glass : MCU, M. Shyamalan’s Cinematic Universe.

I had gushed over Split a while back and was looking forward to Glass ever since M.Night Shyamalan, who would have been just another friendly neighborhood Manoj had his parents chosen not to cross the Pacific, dropped hints towards the end of Split that he was building his own superhero universe, minimalistic of course. Considering the fact that every other big studio is battling for box office supremacy in the genre these days, wouldn’t blame Shyamalan if he felt driven to explore his core competencies in that context too. He has but gone on record to state that he indeed had three films on his mind when he wrote Unbreakable all those years back. Though I cannot recall any indications of the sort right now from Unbreakable I’ll take his word for it. If the man’s debut feature is still not good enough for the Hollywood elites to acknowledge his genius, they atleast should  acknowledge his sheer confidencen given the fact that he has churned out a superhero movie universe franchise in no time with almost zero CGI. Well, at least not with the Marvel or DC kind of mind numbing CGI.

If Unbreakable was ultimately a  philolosphical take on comic books at large, Split was far removed and was more of a catalogue of everything James McAvoy was capable of, as an actor, apart from being Shyamalans  magnificent return to his arena, that being the  psychological thriller. Shyamalan deflty combines the elements of both these movies, apart from the characters, obviously,  in Glass. What helps Glass the most is the pace at which the story progresses. In a stark departure from his signature style, no time is wasted building up the elements of suspense in Glass. Shyamalan’s sense of humor is intact too, which helps. While every other celebrated filmmaker out there has reinvented the most loved superheroes of our times with origin stories, Shyamalan has taken those superheroes, stripped them bare of their capes and tights and placed them on a couch in a shrink’s office, literally, rather than on a battlefield. If the Marvel and DC movies had a troubled soul, Glass would be it. In Unbreakable, he explored the dynamics of a superhero- supervillain relationship, so to speak. Here, in Glass it’s about the balance of power and order, utlimately.

James McAvoy is  back at what he does best and the Oscar snub hasn’t dampened his spirits it seems. This time around he has to share screen time between the other two Shyamalan favroites, Bruce Willis and Samuel.L.Jackson. Willis’s character is the most one-dimensional character of the three and this could be one reason why Spencer Treat Clarke makes a return here as a makeshit Alfred to Dunn’ Overseer avatar. Willis’s character inadvertently owes it to Samuel.L.Jackson’s Elijah ultimately for the discovery of his own abilities and is the reason why I felt he is one dimensional if not for the presence of his anti-hero counterpart, Mr.Glass. To borrow a borrowed line from another  pathbreaking superhero movie, all Glass is trying to say to Dunn is, “You complete me”. Glass is the most moving character in this film though he is supposedly the mastermind supervillain. Shyamalan who has made a return to reckoning after being lost in cinematic oblivion for a while, I feel has actually turned a nose up at the big studios who are busy dishing out superhero movies on hughe budgets, by making a couple of films in the same genre on a shoestring budget. Or maybe he’s just doing penance for The Last Airbender and After Earth.

രംഗീല മുതൽ മിഖായിൽ വരെ.

രംഗീല കണ്ടിട്ടു വന്ന കൂട്ടുകാരനോട് ഇടിയുണ്ടോ എന്ന് ചോദിച്ച എന്നെ നിരാശപെടുത്താതിരിക്കാനായിരിക്കണം ഇടിയില്ല പക്ഷേ അമീർ ഖാനെ ജാക്കി ഷ്രോഫ് പിടിച്ചു തള്ളുന്നുണ്ട് എന്ന് അവൻ മറുപടി പറഞ്ഞത്. ഇനിയിപ്പോ ഇടി ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നേലും രംഗീലക്ക് പോകാൻ പറ്റുമായിരുന്നില്ല. അയ്യോ അത് കൊണ്ടല്ല. പത്താം ക്‌ളാസ്സ് കഴിയുന്ന വരെ ഒറ്റയ്ക്ക് പടത്തിനു പോകാൻ പെർമിഷൻ ഇല്ലാരുന്നു. ഞാൻ ആണേൽ മറ്റേ ടീമാരുന്നു റെഢി ടു…പറഞ്ഞു പറഞ്ഞു വന്നത് അന്നൊക്കെ ഇടിടെ എണ്ണം വെച്ചാരുന്നു ഞാൻ സിനിമ വിലയിരുത്തിയുരുന്നത്. വീട്ടിൽ ഭിത്തിൽ അർണോൾഡ് തോക്കും പിടിച്ചോണ്ട് നിക്കുന്ന ഒരു പോസ്റ്ററും ഉണ്ടാരുന്നു. പ്രെഡറ്ററിലെ ഒരു സ്റ്റില്ല് മുല്ലക്കൽ ചിറപ്പിന് റോട്ടിന്നു വാങ്ങിച്ചത്. യെസ് ഗ്ലോബലൈസേഷൻ താങ്ക്സ് ടു മിസ്റ്റർ മൻമോഹൻ. ഇപ്പോ നരേറ്റീവ്‌ സബ്‌ടെക്‌സ്റ്റ് ഓലക്കേടെ മൂട് എന്നൊക്കെ ഞാൻ തള്ളുമ്പോ എനിക്ക് എന്നോട് തന്നെ ഒരു ബഹുമാനം തോന്നാറുണ്ട്. അയ്യോ അഹങ്കാരം അല്ല സെൽഫ് റെസ്‌പെക്ട് …സെൽഫ് റെസ്‌പെക്ട്. അത് വേണം എന്നാണല്ലോ എല്ലാ എച് ആർ മനുവലിലും പറയുന്നത്. അതോ വേണ്ടന്നാണോ. ആ അതെന്തായാലും ഞാൻ പറഞ്ഞു വന്നത് ഇപ്പോഴും ഇടി കണ്ടാൽ എന്റെ മനസ് ഒന്ന് ചാഞ്ചാടാറുണ്ട്. പക്ഷെ ഇതിപ്പോ ആ ഹനീഫ് അദെയ്‌നി ഏങ്ങനെ മനസ്സിലാക്കി എന്ന് എനിക്ക് ഒരു എത്തും പിടിം കിട്ടുന്നില്ല. ഇനി പുള്ളിം എന്നെ പോലെ ഒരു ഇടിപ്രേമി ആണോ? സാധ്യതയില്ലാതില്ലാതില്ല. അല്ലേ പിന്നേ പുള്ളി നിവിൻ പോളിയെകൊണ്ട് ഒരു പോലീസുകാരന് മരുന്ന് എഴുതിപ്പിക്കും എന്നൊക്കെ പറയിപ്പിച്ചു ഒരു ഞെരിപ് ടീസറും പിന്നെ ഉണ്ണി മുകുന്ദൻ നിവിൻ പോളിയെ പറന്നടിക്കുന്ന ഒരു

ട്രെയ്ലറും ഒക്കെ ഇറക്കി എന്നെ കൊണ്ട് ടിക്കറ്റും ബുക്ക് ചെയ്യിപ്പിച്ചു തിയറ്ററിൽ കൊണ്ടെ ഇരുത്തുമോ. ഇടി കൊള്ളാം വല്യ കുഴപ്പമില്ല . പിന്നെ ഉണ്ണി മുകുന്ദന്റെ ഇടി കൊണ്ട മിക്കവരുടെയും സമയം തെളിഞ്ഞിട്ടുണ്ട്.അയ്യോ അതല്ല. വിക്രമാദിത്യനിൽ ദുൽക്കർ പുള്ളിമായിട്ടു മുട്ടി. പിന്നെ ടോവിനോ ഒരു പടത്തിൽ പുള്ളിടെ ഇടി കൊണ്ടു.ദേ ഇപ്പോ നിവിനും. ഉണ്ണി മുകുന്ദനെ ഇടിച്ചാ സ്വർണം കിട്ടുമോ…ഉറപ്പിക്കട്ടെ ?അതൊക്കെ പോട്ട് ഉണ്ണി മുകുന്ദനെ കൊണ്ട് വെല്ല ബ്ലഡ് ടെസ്റ്റിനും വന്നതാണ് എന്ന് പറയിപ്പിച്ചാ പോരാരുന്നോ എന്റെ ഹനീഫ് അഥേനി? ഷാജി കൈലാസിന്റെ അവിടുന്ന്‌ ഇറങ്ങേ ചെയ്‌തു അമൽ നീരദിന്റെ അവടെ എത്തിയേം ചെയ്‌തില്ല എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞ പോലെയാണ് പുള്ളിടെ ഏർപ്പാട്. എന്തരായാലും എന്റെ ശതം സമർപ്പയാമിയായി.

When Sabarimala Kept Me Up.

A decade and couple of years back, half a dozen women lawyers moved the apex court in the country against a practise that they found to be a “socio-religious malady in a place of worship managed by a state run body partially funded by public money”. The State Government, the high priest, the Dewaswom Board and the District Magistrate of Pathanamitha were impleaded as parties in the PIL filed by the ladies in question. The temple’s tryst with the law prior to this in the same context was another decade and a half before the one in 2006 when the High Court of Kerala upheld the ban in response to another PIL filed by a male citizen. The issue was never a bone of major contention otherwise in our collective conscience. There were of course other cases in court filed by local communities linked to the legend of the deity who wanted their rights to the many customs which were taken over by the priestly class to be restored. But how many of us were actually bothered by this ban on mensturating women to be honest? It was something that we were conditioned to accept as normalcy, as we do with most things in our puny little lives. If there were indeed people who saw this for what it was like the Supreme Court did in September of the year past, they never thought to act on their thoughts. It took a Barkha Dutt article and a bunch of women from the other half of the country to do that for us. No, not me or you with all our enlightment and sophistication. Even the Left government under E.K Nayanar left it to the Dewasom Board to decide the matter according to the usage of practises in their affidavit in court in response to the PIL of 1991.

Fastforward to 2018 and we have a Left government again at the helm and under the microscope like never before thanks to the rise of the far right in the North and the demise of the centre-left since 2014. The government was doing fairly well and gaining popularity under an able leadership that threatened both the Opposition and the right wingers who were trying everything within their limited powers to gain political traction in the state. The state showed reslience, literally in the face of a deadly epidemic. Then came the floods and the state’s response as a people and a government to it. The Sabarimala imbroglio is definitely something that was not on the menu when the government came into power and it certainly wasn’t looking forward to be in the position it has found itself as I write this. But that’s not to say it isn’t capable of handling it. The governments in power at various junctures during the decade long litigation had filed affidavits that were in lieu of their core principles and ideologies. The Left had always maintained that it’s outlook was progressive on the issue but that it would maintain the status quo if the court ruled otherwise. The Congress government in the interim had filed in opposition. Came the verdict in September in the wake of the havoc that the floods wreaked with a storm of another kind under it’s wings. Rest is history as we are witnessing it.

The State welcomed the verdict and promised to uphold the constituitional rights of citizens as directed by the Supreme Court. The right wingers welcomed it too, in principle. To any independent observer worth his salt, this was just the calm before the storm. In the first few days that followed, almost all major political stakeholders watched and waited to gauge the public reaction. There were other interested parties who expected the verdict and had been strategising during the days that ran up to the verdict. These were mostly non political enitities with interests and claims to the operations of the temple itself. Once the political potential of the crisis unveiled itself in totality to the aspirants in the thick of the game, the tables literally turned. What followed was days of perpetual unrest and dilemma. The Left in Kerala is the only entity that is politically capable of handling a situation as delicate and suicidal as this if you ask me. Unlike the Congress that’s scattered across groups that revolve like satellites around individuals and initials, the Left draws it’s strength from it’s cadre and structure. The Left also has a think tank who formulate strategies to tackle any political crisis that’s thrown their way. They’re almost rigid in that aspect when it comes to resolves which is in fact both a forte and foible at the same time.

The right wingers had cornered and further pushed the State into a spot that it did not like stay for long in. It had to push back with all might and it did just that. It lifted the veils on the rift and the faultlines that ran deep in the psyche of the residents. Identity politics took a centrestage as a counter strategy. Even the Chief Minister wasn’t spared casteist slurs. We saw the Left working a multi pronged approach to deal with the hypocrisy of the organisations that opposed the verdict. There were contradictory statements every other day. Women who came forward initially failed to make it to seat of the deity. At times the State played mute spectator to the antics of the right wingers who had literally fortified the temple premises with their presence. Then after a period of brief lull came a time of turbulence again. If the right wingers had envisaged a battle between Communists and believers, the Left in their reaction had driven a sledgehammer clean into the caste faultines of the state’s social fabric and the usual suspects were only too happy to oblige, on either sides. After much delibertations and negotiations the government was able to bring influential community organisations together and hold a show of resolution and solidarity, literally flexing it’s muscles. Then overnight came the bolt from the blue, the announcement about the entry of two women who laid claim to their rights, finally. This has upped the ante for all the powers that be. Politically too, there are only winners here, mostly. The far right finally has the opportunity it always longed for. The Left has ensured a place in the annals for it’s leadership as heroes of renaissance. The Congress is looking at a bleak future in terms of their customary return to the assembly every five years, which is why they are reeling in contradictions under an uninspiring leadership, if one may call it that. The far right who have used polarising tacticts to gain political foothold in the rest of the country time and again have met their match in this southernmost state, it’s safe to say.

Sabarimala for the longest time has remained a bastion of faith that reached out to people beyond the barriers of religion.The pilgrimage took one on a personal journey of atonement. The legends told tales of camaraderie between a Hindu warrior and his Muslim ally to whom the devotees paid respects in his shrine before they arrived at the famed eighteen steps. Despite being such a timeless symbol of secularism and tolerance, when the temple makes headlines across the globe for the wrong reasons, it’s not the emperor who’s naked, it’s the subjects.

Petta : What A Man !

Yes, that’s Abbas’s line from Padayappa. Not necessarily the best Rajni ” moment” that by any stretch of imagination, in fact the scene might look downright funny to any soul a stranger to RCU, that’s yes Rajni Cinematic Universe and Karthik Subbaraj the director of Petta has made a film which proves that he is stuck in a cinematic time warp of sorts where that dialogue from Padayappa is played over and over again. But he wouldn’t be alone there, considering the fact that the Superstar has a fan base in lands as far as Japan. Rajnikanth might very well be the only import to that country. Okay, maybe I did exaggerate a bit there, but we are talking Rajnikanth and his films where everything is larger than life. The last time a director paid tribute to Rajnikanth was with Sivaji when Shankar finally got to work with him, though one can’t help sigh wondering how Mudhalvan would have turned out had the star said yes to Shankar. Bygones are bygones  and a decade since, a young filmmaker has brought the Rajnikanth every fan yearned for, back to the screen.

Rajnikanth is 68 and he is most probably the only star his size in our part of the world who is the least bothered about looking his age off the screen, he can afford to do that simply because the energy and charisma he brings to his characters on the screen is something even his younger peers cannot match. In Petta he plays a college warden who appears to be more than just that and there’s a hint of mystery to everything he does and says. You know something’s brewing because you have watched him do that in the first half of Bhaasha too. But this time, he is not taking any blows, he’s only delivering them, verbal and physical to anyone who stands in his way. The first half of the movie is essentially a walk in the museum of all things Rajnikanth. Karthik Subbaraj uses everything from silhouettes to shadows to the sound of the star whislting to drive the fans into frenzy. Rajnikanth gets another introduction scene just before the interval which takes us into a narrative totally removed from the fun and frolic of the first half. But before he gets serious Karthik Subbaraj ensures that the fan in every viewer is fed well. Rajnikanth channels his inner Bruce Lee more than once and there’s even a scene where he displays his nunchak skills, obviously a throwback to his Paayumpuli days. Then there’s a song set on the hostel grounds where Rajnikanth shows us that he hasn’t lost his groove. The only time the audience erupted for a scene without the star was when Vijay Sethupathi appeared on the screen. Vijay Sethupathi again sleepwalks in a film where he has little else to do other than being a satellite to the star at the centre. Other Karthik Subbaraj regulars are splattered across the canvas, namely Bobby Simha. Simran makes a breezy comeback and Rajnikanth again gets to show that his charisma hasn’t faded in romantic scenes and songs. But in the second half it’s an entirely different film and these characters disappear. We do not miss them because another set of actors take their place. Sasikumar appears in a role that has shades of more than one buddy character from Rajnikanth films of yore. Nawazzudin Siddiqui in his Tamil debut is in a role that is essentially what we identify him with the most thanks to popular cinema, the nonchalant gangster with a hint of psychopathy.

Kabaali and Kaala were films where the director used Rajnikanth as a medium to sell his politics but unlike Pa. Ranjith, Karthik Subbaraj has done what the likes of  K.S Ravikumar, Suresh Krishna has done in the past, build a shrine for the Thalaiva. Apart from that he has also done something clever here, I feel. Despite Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Vijay Sethupathi playing bad guys to Rajnikanth, Karthik Subbaraj who is also the writer has written a character for his favorite actor which almost makes a statement that in the ultimate Rajnikanth film, it’s the star who plays both the hero and the villain. Interestingly this is the second time in a row where a Rajnikanth film references Ramayana, given Tamil Naud’s love-hate relationship historically with the mythological epic. If you see Rajnikanth as a Christ figure against a cross in the first half, he is almost Krishna justifying the means to a win when pitted against opponents who are kin in the second half. Karthik Subbaraj also has taken a subtle jab at the hard right politics here. The only time the film drags a bit is when it ceases to a Rajnikanth film somehere in the middle of the second half and tries to take a serious tone but Karthik Subbaraj, I think it’s to safe to say, saves the film from an inevitable mediocre ending with a cinematic sleight of hand of sorts that will leave the audience stunned, much like the characters on the screen.  After two back to back movies laden heavily with political themes, Petta is just what the doctor ordered for the Superstar and his fans. Rajnified indeed, to the dot.