Friday, March 25, 2005

Meghamalhaar- story of another mallu movie.

As the movie begins, we see a lady –Nandita Menon and another man- Rajeev – waiting at the counter in a bakery to collect B’day cakes for their daughter and son respectively. Both give each other just a cursory glance and go their respective ways after collecting the cakes.

Predictably, the cakes had changed hands- i.e: the cake meant fot Rajeev’s son had been given to Nandita and vice versa. Phone calls are made, both go back to the bakery and exchange the cakes. Period.

Rajeev is an advocate, his wife Rekha works in a bank. They have 2 children and lead a very happy domestic life. Rekha’s constant crib being that she has to travel daily in the local train to her place of work. Her weekends are set aside for catching up with lost sleep. Rajeev is an indulgent, affectionate husband which is well reciprocated.

Nandita is a fairly known creative writer and asst editor in a reputed Magazine house. Her husband is in the Middle East. She lives with her father-in-law and her daughter. Her husband calls regularly and keeps assuring her that he would soon be coming home for good. He tells her that his colleagues are her fans and yet somehow he cannot manage to read her stories but likes to gaze at her photgraph that invariably accompanies her stories in the magazines.

Rajeev has an advocate friend- Bhoominathan who keeps praising Nandita’s stories, and when Rajeev sees her photograph in a magazine, he realizes that it was her whom he had met at the bakery. Curiosity perks up and Rajeev reads Nandita’s stories and likes her writing.

One day, Rajeev has to go to the hospital because his elder brother had been admitted for cirrhosis. Incidentally, Nandita also comes to the same hospital because her father- in- law is admitted there after a mild attack. Rajeev notices her sitting outside the ICCU, ponders whether to talk to her, hesitates, then goes to meet her. He reminds her of the bakery confusion, also mentions that he had read her stories and liked them too. Nandita does not speak much, just smiles.

Sometime during the night, Rajeev wakes, decides to get a cup of coffee. He notices Nandita dozing on a chair outside the icu. Rajeev goes to the canteen, was abt to order a cup, a thought strikes him- he goes back to the room, takes a flask- one can see the constant deliberation on his face- he is not too sure if he should- then finally decides. He gets a flask full of black coffee, goes back and offers it to Nandita. She is hesitant at first, then accepts. Rajeev mentions that he was unable to get hold of the latest edtion of the weekly magazine in which Nandita’s story had appeared. Nandita thanks him for the coffee, then gives him the magazine copy.

A few weeks/ months elapse. They run into each other again, this time at the advocate office. Nandita had accompanied her friend – another writer-Saudamini-who had to see an advocate to apply for divorce. Nandita enquires after the health of Rajeev’s brother and he informs her that he was no more. Nandita feels awkward… and is at a loss for words…they are still formal in their talk- the way they address eachother…

Rajeev calls Nandita and thanks her for reviving his interest in books. He had lost touch with reading after setting up his practice. Rajeev buys Nandita’s collection of stories and enjoys reading them. One of the stories was titled “Meghamalhaar”- which makes Rajeev say that he had always been interested in Hindustani music esp Ghazals. He gives a couple of cassettes to Nandita, and also one in which he had sung a few songs. Nandita after listening to the cassettes, compliments him on his singing talent. Rajeev sends Nandita a couple of passes for a Ghazal concert and Nandita attends it with her writer friend ( Saudamini).

After the concert, Rajeev who had come down with his friend Bhoominathan, invites Nandita and her friend for coffee. During coffee, Bhoominathan in an inebriated state, speaks disparagingly to Saudamini wrt her writing skills creating an awkward tense situation. Saudamini gets up and walks away, and Nandita follows. Rajeev is annoyed with Bhoomi, but the latter is hardly repentant. He says he had always wanted to give a piece of his mind to Saudamini because her writing was hypocritical and pseudo-feministic. However, when Rajeev mentions that Nandita too must’ve felt bad, Bhoomi immediately apologises and does not forget to remark on his friend’s growing soft corner for her.

Rajeev apologises to Nandita at the earliest and also conveys his regrets to Saudamini. Things are back to normal.

One day Nandita calls Rajeev for a favour. She wants to interview a famous artiste living in a village for a feature in her magazine, whom Rajeev knows very well- who also happens to be Bhoomi’s uncle- The artiste shuns reporters and Nandita is apprehensive abt being refused an interview. Rajeev agrees to seek Bhoomi’s help. Bhoomi says he would speak to his uncle about the interview, but says he would not be able to accompany Nandita and the magazine photographer to the village and asks Rajeev to go instead. Besides, the artiste knew Rajeev very well too. So plans are made- Rajeev, Nandita, and the Magazine house photographer would go by the company car to the remote village the coming Sunday.

En route, Rajeev mentions that the story he liked best of Nandita’s was the one which was about 2 little girls- Parvati and Kausu- how they lived near a river, and often played by its banks. The story goes like this:

Parvathi and Kausu were 2 friends and one day, Kausu fought with Parvathi, and the latter in a moment of childish anger pushes Kausu into the river and runs off. Parvathi forgets the incident, goes to sleep and when she woke up she is shocked to see Kausu’s body being carried from the river. Only then the gravity of the situation dawns upon Parvathi and she is filled with remorse and guilt. She spends her days crying, unable to confide in anybody. Eventually she befriends a little boy – another neighbour and many a time that boy offers her comfort and solace.

Nandita’s face pales upon hearing Rajeev recount the story but Rajeev does not notice. The photographer comments that this story had won the best story award the year it had been published. Nandita remains silent and moody.

Now, it was time to stop the car, and resume the journey by boat. The locale is beautiful. As they were waiting for the boat, Rajeev asks Nandita if she was feeling fine, becos she looked “mood- off’- Nandita replies that she was fine. Rajeev then went on to say that a similar incident had happened to him in his childhood - they used to live in Kanyakumari then- like in the story- he used to know 2 girls like Parvathi and Kausu- and he had consoled a girl whom everybody called “Shree kutty”- who was in similar circumstances as that of Parvathi in the story. Now Nandita is totally wonderstruck…as she realizes that Rajeev was her childhood playmate, but she does not tell him anything, and neither does Rajeev think of the possibility. He just expresses surprise that Nandita wrote such a story. Rajeev adds that he had since carried fond memories of that little girl- Shree Kutty and wondered where she was now.

Nandita, during the boat ride keeps deliberating whether to tell him that she was Shree kutty, but she decides not to and keep it to herself as a precious, sweet secret.

They go to the artiste’s palatious ancestral home- have a great lunch- and of course an interview- the old man was a tough nut and did not have much opinion abt the press media- which incidentally had once twisted his words an created a controversy a few years ago – and since then the artiste had banned the press. However he relented to this interview becos Rajeev knew her- then he goes on to ask Rajeev to sing a song- and Rajeev obliges- obviously a song in the raag- Meghamalhaar…

As the song unfolds- we see that the trio return to town, Rajeev and Nandita meet often, their friendship deepens- now the way they address eachother is less formal- previously it used to be in terms of “aap”, now it had become equivalent to “tum”…

Nandita is perfectly comfortable with the friendship- she has no qualms- she sees him as the playmate from her childhood who had helped her cross a tough phase…without whose help perhaps she might have become a mental wreck-but Rajeev finds himself thinking too much abt Nandita- it disconcerts him- he confides to Bhoomi- he says its not “Love” but that definitely he was feeling very affectionate towards Nandini. Bhoomi opines that perhaps Rajeev should tell it to Nandita.

Rajeev asks to meet Nandita at the beach- he hems and haws…and is unable to tell Nandita anything- Nandita imagines that perhaps Rajeev had guessed that she was Shree kutty and wanted to clarify it- Nandita feel svery excited thinking about the recognition- however they go their ways that evening without being able to speak much. Next day again Rajeev calls her to the beach, and finally blurts out:

I like you very much- why-I don’t know why, tho I have asked the question to myself a lot of times- it is a liking that makes me feel I want even if my mind keeps telling me I shouldn’t …”

Nandita is aghast- she glares at him with tears in her eyes and then walks away....
Rajeev is stunned and regrets his confession. He is upset…

Nandita is also disturbed and confides to Saudamini. The latter blames her telling that perhaps Nandita gave him too much liberty considering him her childhood playmate.

(There are scenes interspersed where they show that the relationship between Rajeev and his wife Rekha, as well as Nandita and her husband Mukundan is happy.)

Rajeev tries to call Nandita, give her passes to another Ghazal concert but Nandita ignores him completely…and yet Nandita is vaguely unhappy.

Months pass, Nandita is going to Trivandrum with her friend Saudamini to participate in a creative writing workshop. Saudamini mentions that perhaps Nandita had taken Rajeev’s confession too seriously and over reacted…that she needn’t have misconstrued Rajeev’s “liking” to be misplaced. She also suggests that maybe Nandita could gift him her recent copy of collection of short stories as a peace offering.

Nandita takes out a copy, and inside she addresses it as:

To my childhood playmate
From Shreekutty”


Now Rajeev has to go to Trivandrum on an official assignment, and as luck would have it he boards the same bus as Nandita and Saudamini. Nandita ignores him pointedly, Saudamini makes polite talk. Rajeev feels very hurt but remains silent. When they alight at TVM, Nandita asks Saudamini to give Rajeev the copy of her book.

Rajeev opens the book while sitting in a rick, and upon seeing the contents is overwhelmed with several emotions- surprise, confusion, happiness…

Meanwhile Nandita is wondering what Rajeev’s reaction would be…

Rajeev calls Nandita at the camp and asks to meet her one last time. He was waiting just outside. Nandita goes out to meet him- there are few moments of silence- as Shreekutty and Rajeev look at eachother as childhood friends. Then Rajeev asks why Nandita had played such a drama, why hadn’t she told him that she was Shreekutty- The Shreekutty –whose image -as she waved bye forlornly -had stuck with him for years-whom he had imagined running into some day-
Shreekutty only smiles. Rajeev then apologises for having spoken the way he did at the beach the other day, he then bid farewell and was about to leave, when Nandita calls him back and says could they visit that shore in Kanyakumari one last time?

Nandita and Rajeev board a bus to Kanyakumari, they visit the seashore and all the places of their childhood- there is a nice song running in the background- they sit side by side in companionable silence- and when the song ends we find Nandita resting her head on Rajeev’s shoulder. She suddenly opens her eyes, moves away- Both are embarrassed. Then Nandita asks Rajeev- now they address mutually as “nee” (equivalent to “tu” in Hindi)- The vestiges of formality has finally crumbled away :

Would you be able to forget that we ever met again- that we would never meet again, that even if some time in the future we were to cross paths, would you be able to pass by as if we never knew eachother?
Because, if we continue our friendship there is the possibility that we would be lost to the people who love us. So would you be able to promise me that after we leave here, we would never meet? Would you be able to promise me this? I too need to forget this encounter, and I promise you that I shall. So what do you say Rajeev?”-
There are tears in her eyes.

Rajeev replies with a sad smile: “Shall we leave?”

The frame freezes- next frame:

Many years into the future,this could be a possibility:

Nandita is watching the sun set at Kanyakumari. She has aged, there are streaks of grey in her hair, her husband comes near her and says; “Shall we leave? I did not know that you meant this place when you said you wanted to go on a trip”. Nandita smiles. They are checking out of the hotel that they were staying in.

Another taxi- Rekha is dozing off- her husband Rajeev wakes her up and tells her affectionately- that they had almost reached their destination. Rekha wakes up and tells her husband that she did not know how the sunset in Kanyakumari was different from the one that they could see at the city where they lived. Rajeev smiles indulgently and quips that she was better off asleep. The taxi enters the hotel premises.

Rajeev enters the hotel. Rekha follows him. Mukundan exits from the same hotel. He recognizes Rekha- they had studied in the same college it seems. Rekha introduces Rajeev to Mukundan. Mukundan calls out to Nandita who was already in their car. Nandita comes out- she sees Rajeev- their eyes meet- Mukundan introduces her to Rajeev and Rekha. Rekha recognizes her as the famous writer. Rajeev says “Hello” and Nandita murmurs “Hello”- the next shot is of waves lashing on the shores of Kanyakumari and the words reverberate a few times….

(This story might seem quite irrelevant in today’s world, where there are many healthy friendships between the sexes. But, somehow this movie touched me in a special way- the possibility of deep affection developing between two individuals which might have caused undesirable repercussions in either’s family life- I think it could be still valid in some instances atleast…( have witnessed a few such relationship -evolutions :-))
Somehow, if there is a possibility that such friendships might go on to become much deeper then perhaps it is wiser to avoid such circumstances. Just what I feel.)


Trivia:

This movie was directed by Kamal- not to be mistaken for Kamalahassan.

Rajeev was played by Biju Menon and Nandita by Samyuktha Varma- soon afterwards, these 2 got married in real life! They have played co stars in quite a number of movies.

Though this movie was not a box office hit, it won a few State level awards. I think it was produced by asianet.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Maanasaputhri- The daughter of my Dreams!

I

Lalita reclined further into the sofa languorously, and her leaden eyelids closed on their own accord. Absent mindedly, she caressed her swollen abdomen and a smile lingered on her lips…as if in response she felt the sudden movement beneath her fingers…Lalita hummed a lullaby softly…the same one that she had heard her mother sing to her little brother years ago… “Omana Thinkal Kidaavo…nalla komala Thaamara poovo..” she could not remember all the words, but it was a really beautiful one- and there was another one which her uncle used to sing- “ente makan Krishnanunni…”Lalita decided she should get both the songs from her mother- there was still time for it…

Thoughts of her mother filled her heart with longing for her mother’s presence Today, she was also soon going to become a mother, but that did not mean that she would stop being her parent’s baby… she felt tears – tears of love, gratitude, yearning for her mother’s touch…She always knew how much her parents loved her, but now, she could feel the intensity…today at the threshold of Motherhood, it suddenly hit her like a whiplash, the tangibility of the affection of her parents’ overwhelmed her- she was always aware of the invisible cocoon, and she had basked in it warmly…The realization, the awareness filled her being with a surge of love and zealous fortitude.

Lalita drifted into a dreamlike stupor, she knew it would be a daughter, Vikram wanted to name her Lavanya, and Lalita loved the sound of it…Lavikkutty- Lalita spoke to the baby in her womb incessantly- sometimes in her thoughts, sometimes aloud…she sang to her, she read to her- stories, shlokas, played good music…she wanted to instill the best into the spirit of her unborn daughter..her grandmother had written to her to read The Sundarakandam from the Ramayana daily – Lalita had never been very religious minded, perhaps spiritually inclined maybe- but now, she was inspired to follow any measure to ensure a healthy spirit in her unborn-

Her abdomen felt so taut and glazy, she could even ‘see’ when Lavikkutty moved. Vikram also talked to his daughter, he emotionally underwent all her pregnancy symptoms …he even admitted to feeling a trifle jealous about the physical bonding that a mother always had with the offspring. Vikram was so anxious, he would make a note of Lalita’s condition each day, and grill the doctor with a zillion doubts when they went for the monthly chek up- he was unmindful of their friends’ and relatives’ amused comments teasing him for behaving as if he was the first father-to- be in the world! Every evening he would coerce her to take a long walk- Lalita forgot her own anxieties watching Vikram’s apprehensions. In fact she was more concerned about how Vikram would bear “her” labour pains… She smiled at the thought… How true that men of today’s generation was so different from the husbands/fathers of bygone times…

Lavikkuty, why are the days crawling by so slowly? Every moment weighs so heavily… and yet I want to savour these moments when you are a part of my being- my body, my soul…but I can’t wait to hold you in my arms, to hold your little finger- to bathe you, to dress you- to sing to you…

I would like you to grow up into a loving, caring , compassionate person. I would pray that you bring Happiness and cheer to those who touch your lives, I would have liked you to remain untouched by pain, sorrow, but I know that is impossible, so I would just pray that you emerge stronger with every setback in your life- you would find your parents with all their love, affection and blessings- we will let you fall, make mistakes… and we would urge you to get up… brush the dust off- and move on…

The months passed at snail’s pace for Lalitha and Vikram. One night Lalita woke Vikram up in the middle of the night. Vikram was alert immediately, he saw Lalita’s face wince in pain…her face was beaded with perspiration. For a moment Vikram was alarmed, Lalita smiled weakly, and whispered- “Vicky, Lavikkutty is on her way…”

Vikram immediately went and woke Lalita’s mother who had come down for the confinement, the bag was all ready weeks ago. He called up the hospital, and they had asked him to bring Lalita over immediately.
They reached the hospital, Lalita was immediately taken to the labour room.
Two hours later, which had been like eternity for Vikram, the nurse came out smiling- it was a girl. Both mother and daughter were doing well. Vikram and his mother –in-law were relieved and thrilled. Vikram had been praying to all the Gods whom he had seen in his mother’s puja room…but had forgotten long since…and now he breathed easy.

They went into the room, Vikram moved towards Lalita, she gave a tired smile, he just held her hands…and there was this inexpressible feeling which threatened to overwhelm his being- he then looked at the little bundle by her side…and he gasped- she was so perfect, so beautiful…he just could not believe his eyes…He felt as if he was beholding a miracle…He gingerly touched his daughter’s little fingers and she immediately held fast to his finger…that moment in Vikram’s life…it felt as if the core of his existence concentrated into that single moment…

II


The years passed one by one, and Lavanya seemed to be growing healthily. But now and then Lalita felt that soemthing was not quite right. She voiced her fears to Vikram, but he just shrugged it off- Some how Lavanya seemed perfect from the outside but as she grew up, her motor development, her attaining milestones, then her performance at school all suggested some problem- they kept denying it to themselves…but when others began noticing and making enquiries, Lalita was forced to confront Vikram with the option of consulting a specialist. Vikram refused to accept, and argued bitterly with Lalita. Lalita though pained, had no choice but to consult the doctor on the sly. And her fears were confirmed- there was definitely something different about Lavanya…and the prognosis was far from encouraging.


Lalita’s world came crashing down and she had no idea how to break it to Vikram. She knew she would have to fight this battle alone, but she was determined to put up a fight for her precious daughter.


Handling Vikram proved to be much more challenging, that there were times when tackling Lavanya seemed easier. Vikram simply refused to accept the fact that his precious daughter was "less than normal". He kept longer hours at office, fought with Lalita, sometimes even behaved as if Lalita was his and his daughter’s enemy. There were times when Lalita reached the end of her tether, but she realized Vikram just did not have it in him to face life. Vikram however lavished his love upon Lavanya.


Lalita went to a counsellor to seek help to manage her upturned life…Vikram refused to accompany her…Lalita took up courses to learn how to teach children like Lavanya…she left her daughter with her parents during the day…Her parents were her major source of strength and support. Lalita taught her daughter to cope and manage with the limited faculties that she was endowed with…
The days of yore when Vikram had been an indulgent husband seemed like a fable now to Lalita, but she had no time for sorrow or moping.


Years passed, Lavanya grew up into a beautiful woman child…but she was as na├»ve as could be… Vikram kept expecting her to perform in par with normal children of her age, and Lavanya was constantly seeking to win appreciation in her father’s eyes. Lavanya adored her father and craved for his approval. The innocent girl was however sensitive to the dissappointement and frustration that she constantly saw in her father’s eyes…and her mother was her only ally- she would sob in her mother’s lap, telling her that “papa does not love me mamma”.
And Lalita would spend hours trying to make her understand that he did, and it was just that he showed it differently…


But Lalita’s painstaking efforts had its effect and today Lavanya is much better than what her doctors had foreseen- of course she would never be completely normal, and Vikram too has kind of come to terms with the situation. He has realized that his darling daughter was different..he tries to help Lalita in his own way nowadays…


I don’t know where to take this story from here- because, as you must have guessed, again, it has been woven around a real life situation and the circumstances are yet to unfold…I just hope and pray that Lavikkutty, Lalita and Vikram live a happy life.