Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Malayalam cinema and its lyrics.

Yesterday I saw a Malayalam movie, a rather dated one, on TV. It impressed me. Before going into the other aspects of that cinema, I would like to talk about the lyrics in it.

The movie has only one song. The lyrics by Rameshan Nair, particularly the second line which contains only three words, reiterated my conviction that Malayalam songs are so descriptive with the minimum use of words. One can almost visualize the scenes without the help of a camera.

A literal translation of the words in question into English would read ‘inner courtyard besmeared with moonlight’. Doesn’t sound all that poetic. One can improve it by changing it to ‘moon-washed (or moon-bathed) inner courtyard’. Still not good enough. In Malayalam, the lyrics are ‘chandrika mezhukiya manimuttam’. And that is poetry.

What do these words bring to mind? It could mean different things to different people. Here is one scenario. A quite moonlit night. An old nalukettu tucked away in some remote village. The manimuttam (inner courtyard) with its tulasithara (a basil vase). Someone sits on the mezhukiya (cow dung coated) floor, staring at the moon-washed white sands of the courtyard, thinking of – what? It could be so many things; imagination has no limits.

The song also reminded me of one from yester years. Unfortunately I can remember only the first line now: Nalukettin thirumutta thilaveyi lettunilkum Krishna thulasi poove… Does anyone know the rest of it?

Coming to the movie – it is by the one man movie machine (a borrowed usage), Balchandra Menon. I never used to take his creations seriously till I saw ‘Achuettante veedu’ yesterday.

The story is basically simple, a tale that we see in many families and places. The characters are fantastic though. They are not unusual; we often find them in real life. But how minutely Balachandra Menon observed them and transferred them so realistically on to the celluloid is truly amazing. He has woven the story tightly and smoothly without even one obtrusive knot. The deft manner in which Menon handles the suicide attempt is excellent. The dialogues are crisp, to the point, and carry the story forward.

The artistes merely live their parts. I wonder whether the movie would have had the same quality if there was one character more, or one less. The only comment about casting is that Sukumaran was overqualified for the role; it didn’t offer any challenge to the great histrionic talent the actor had.

The subtly symbolic end where the heroine walks to her new job against the backdrop of a serpentine political jatha in front of the Government Secretariat is a master stroke. Life goes on in spite of snakes and ladders.

Achuvinte veedu is not a great movie. But it is a good one. If you haven’t seen it yet, get hold of a print.


Also see:

Malayalam cinema: Random thoughts

Malayalam songs: Lyrics


Roxi said...

I haven't seen a single south indian movie be it in tamil or telugu or malayalam.

But I have a friend here in my college who knows malayalam very well and you won't believe, few days back I was asking him to teach me his mother language.
Now I got an idea. I'll watch this movie alongside him and he will translate the conversation for me.
At least i'll learn something than nothing. :-)

Unknown said...

That's good idea, Roxi. Thanks for the interest.

Maddy said...

Take a look at Vasthavam, you may enjoy it

Unknown said...

Thank you for the suggestion, Maddy. I'm going to Cochin next week & shall try to get hold of a copy of Vasthavam. In Chennai I find it difficult to get Malayalam movies.

emlric eroth said...

I completely agree with you on the amazing descriptive nature of malayalam songs. I heard a line in a song a while back.. the singer(male) describes his love as such:
"Karthika'yil neyy thiri aay,poothu nilkum kalvilakke...paadh chaariya vaadhil pazhudhile raavilakin olli alle.."

I sat drop-jawed,touched by that imagery...:)

Unknown said...

dipika, you are so right. One request - please do keep in touch Malayalam & Kerala. It is a fascinating language and a great culture. And Malayalam lyrics have contributed so much to preserve them.

Put on the songs. Close your eyes. And Karthika lamps light up.

Thank you.