WHAT TICKS OFF THE PSYCHE OF A TO-BE-KILLER?

Hi, readers! Welcome back.

So I had been away for more than a month simply because I had been feeling too lazy to think of a relevant topic. I had got a few ideas but I had discarded them believing them to be a pretentious subject until I watched Dileesh Pothan’s JOJI, a Malayalam crime drama film released on 7th April, 2021. I would like to call it psychological drama instead and it’s one of those films that you come across every once in a while that makes you study it deeply.

 Once again, this is not going to be review as I don’t like to judge people’s work on a public platform that much. I’ll be writing about few things that I was led to think of, after watching Joji. If you’re a fan of Psychology or Criminology, this might interest you. But it contains spoilers, so proceed with caution!

According to Wikipedia, JOJI is said to be an adaptation of Macbeth and also inspired by a real-life incident, the Koodathayi Cyanide Murders which took place in Kerala. It is also said to be inspired by K.G George’s 1985 film, Irakal. It is currently streaming on Amazon Prime and the cast includes Fahadh Faasil, Unnimaya Prasad, Baburaj, and Joji Mundakayam among others.

Brief Summary: Joji, a young unemployed man living with his father, two elder brothers, a sister-in-law, and a nephew not much younger than himself. The patriarch of the family, Kuttappan P.K Panachel is feared by his sons and grandson alike, and he still bosses over his middle-aged children and keeps them under his grip. The eldest son doesn’t feel bothered about the lack of independence in his household and the middle one wants to excuse himself from his father’s grip but doesn’t have the guts required for that while the younger one,Joji is desperate to break free. Joji tried to reason with his father but in vain. He eventually started to tamper with his father’s pills that killed him. But as they say, one murder most often doesn’t end at one but leads to a few more.

Personally, I felt it’s more of an adaptation of Irakal with only a little bit of a Macbeth touch and just the act of poisoning from the real-life Cyanide case.

Irakal and Joji had a similar family structure – a Christian family comprising of a grandfather, father, mother, sister, three brothers, and their wives, one of whom wasn’t yet married. That’s in Irakal. In Joji, there were no women in the family except the sister in law, Bincy who was the second eldest brother, Jaison‘s wife. In Joji’s family, his eldest brother, Jomon’s son, Poppy lives with them after Jomon’s divorce.

Irakal opens with the youngest brother, Baby Mathews playing around with red electrical wires and piercing his fingers with a compass, indicating his suppressed violent desires. He soon ragged a junior and was expelled from his college. Back at home, his father and brother got the wind of it, started preparing to bury the issue using bribes instead of bothering to talk with Baby. It gives you an idea of the environment he grew up in. The family is seen bribing numerous people throughout the entire run of film. For them, money is the solution to every problem and moral values hold no place in their lives.

Koshy, the eldest brother is involved in all kinds of illegal trade and threatens people with a gun when the need arises, supported by his equally corrupt father. The second eldest brother, Sunny is an alcoholic and dreams of living independently with his wife, away from this family. He vocalizes this very desire now and then only to be shut off by his father. The only sister, Annie simply doesn’t care about anybody except engaging in casual relationships with men other than her husband, Andrews. The youngest brother, Baby keeps visualizing himself strangulating people with the red electrical cables that he keeps with himself.  He is seen to be obsessed with blood, so much so that rubber milk oozing from a tree looked red to him, under the influence of marijuana.

After fantasizing about killing somebody for a long time, he finally found a victim in Unnunni, the caretaker of his bedridden grandfather. He chose to kill him only after he noticed Annie spending time with him at night. He made Unnunni’s death looked like suicide and got away with it. Meanwhile, Unnunni’s death though affected Annie but it didn’t stop her from immediately jumping into a casual fling with other men. It makes you wonder what their nerves are made of.

His next victim was a shopkeeper named Balan and made it look like a robbery gone wrong. He also unsuccessfully tried to kill a village belle named Nirmala with whom he had a fling but Nirmala, being the practical girl didn’t resist her mother when she fixed her marriage with Balan, knowing that a rich man like Baby would never marry her. He feels no remorse post any of the murders he committed except maybe felt slightly guilty at the thought of strangulating his bedridden grandfather. He shows some compassion only towards his grandfather who is also the most neglected person besides himself in the whole family. Perhaps, that’s why he was able to empathize with the old man.

His last victim was his friend, Raghavan. This time he had worn a mask to hide his face because he didn’t want Raghavan to know his killer as he was his only friend and source of support. Not only did he fail at this last attempt but also his identity was revealed when his mask was pulled off. He hid inside a storehouse, contemplating killing himself as he realized his time was up. An arrest warrant on his name was already out but he was nowhere to be found. At night, he came home with a gun in his hand firing at anybody who stood in his way, at home. His father escaped a bullet but Koshy got injured. The film ended with his father shooting him with the rifle before he could hurt anyone else. But what struck me was the fact the father showing no signs of weakness before and after killing a son. I bet Baby knew his family was no different from him.

At first, you would think his choice of victims is random but gradually you will realize that is not the case. He punished Unnunni because he couldn’t punish his sister Annie whom he fantasized about killing numerous times for being unfaithful to her husband. He punished his junior roommate as he refused to go out for a walk with him. He punished Balan simply because he couldn’t punish Nirmala for whom he has a romantic interest. He tried to punish Nirmala and his friend Raghavan for agreeing to marry Nirmala. Strangulations are just his idea of punishing people instead of confronting them. His penchant for violence and mental imbalance turned him into a monster.

Pothan’s Joji has shown many aspects that were in Irakal but in its unique way.

Joji opened with a courier agent delivering a package to Poppy who was desperately waiting for it. It turned out to be an air gun. Yes, air gun but let us not discard it as a joke yet. You see him playing around and shooting things with it which looks pretty harmless until he shot at a tree and rubber milk starts oozing out of it. It makes you wonder…right? The bullet shot from an air gun is a metal pellet and it could pierce through a tree? That can’t be a harmless toy….you smell an impending doom yet? I did, more so because it is said to be a Macbeth adaption.

 Okay, he also pointed the gun at the family-owned Horse’s neck to make it stand still for a selfie with him. There you go, he too got a penchant for violence, so much like Baby Mathews. Joji noticed him playing around with the gun and confiscated it from him.

Back at home, Joji is seen to be the most neglected brother who works at his father’s command. His work is nothing but running errands for his dad. His father tends to grab anyone by their neck, to suffocate them, much like strangulation whenever he doesn’t agree with somebody’s opinion or when his opinions are not respected. A real violent man, quite old but extremely fit, and has a stout figure. You see, violence runs in their gene much like it did in Baby’s family.

The family was in dire need of independence from their father.

 Joji tried to reason with his father upon Bincy’s insistence but instead was attacked by his now wheelchair-bound father who tried to strangulate him once again. He has had it enough so he began tampering with his pills regularly, slowly poisoning him, which was noticed by Bincy one day but she chose to turn a blind eye to it. It didn’t take him too long to die. While people were mourning him, Joji stayed in his room lying on a bed and had no remorse. Bincy came up to call him for his father’s final journey, telling him to wear a mask while coming down as it is set during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Bincy’s instruction was not for his safety against covid but to hide his remorseless face which showed no signs of mourning for his dead father.

Meanwhile, Jomon’s alcoholism was getting out of control much like Irakal’s Sunny’s  and he created a ruckus between himself and the priest. His loud behavior irritated the villagers and they soon started to bring up the topic of an autopsy, which got on Joji’s nerves for the very obvious reason.

Joji later dreamt of his father, and it wasn’t because of remorse but because of how strong was their father’s dominance over him. He then shared that with Bincy, who in response told him – “The dead will never return, but beware of the people who are still living.”

Since you know that she is supposed to be the Lady Macbeth of this film, you wonder whether she is hinting at Jomon. Her lady macbethness was really subtle and eerily calm. You wouldn’t guess she was Lady Macbeth unless she hadn’t uttered lines like

“ Your whole youth will be spent in this kitchen slab” indicating that if he doesn’t stand up for himself, he will just rot there.

Or her act of supporting Joji without voicing it as he tampered with his father’s pills.

The irony was that she was carrying a bible that had Christ coming back from the dead. I don’t know if it was a deliberate choice of the makers to keep the bible in the same scene. Anyway, you know dead may never come back literally as Christ did, but what’s gonna stop karma from coming back to bite in the ass?

Jomon started to suspect Joji and he had him eliminated too, this time with the air gun and explosives. This wasn’t a planned murder. He would have gotten away with it had he not forgotten to say about a gunshot in his make-believe narratives to the police. He remembered about the airgun shot only when the autopsy report was out but it was too late by then. The report had Jomon’s son Poppy suspect Joji and he was caught. But he blackmailed the family saying if he goes down, he will name Bincy and Jaison as co-conspirators. Jaison didn’t bow down to his threats which made him attempt to commit suicide in the end. His last SMS to his family says :

“ This is not my suicide note.

This is my MARANA MOZHI ( Dying Declaration ).

The society has fucked me.

The society has killed me.

Arrest them. “

But something about that ending had me wonder if Joji really meant to die or just made it look like a suicide by shooting himself with an air gun on a seemingly safe spot.

What I liked was that the signs of Paranoia wasn’t dramatized in Joji as much as it had been done in other Macbeth adaptations but it was hinted at. There was a brief scene in which Jaison came to inform Joji that a rumor of him murdering Jomon is doing the rounds. He was also going to say something else but was leaving without saying, which upon noticing, Joji asked him if he too suspected him. Jaison was rather taken aback as he only meant to ask him to lend some money. Joji realizing that he was losing his mind, closed the door and muttered to himself, “THINK STRAIGHT, YOU ASSHOLE. THINK STRAIGHT.

Both the films had tons of things in common but what connects them both, to the core is the dysfunctional family with a penchant for violence, and what sets them apart is the killer’s motives. At one point, you were able to empathize with Joji’s motives because he was not just a neglected brother at home but he was also a victim at the hand of the first man he killed. That couldn’t be said about Baby who was a neglected brother but not a victim per se; he committed crimes only as a means to punish people instead of confronting them. Unlike Baby, Joji wasn’t suffering from any undiagnosed mental illness but had been affected psychologically, enough to commit a heinous crime as killing another human. The half of the plot in Joji is about how he deals with the outcomes of the first murder whereas in Irakal, it’s about how Baby deals with his growing urge to commit more murders.

The psychological changes and build-up of a character being shown is not a new concept in Malayalam cinema. It had also been explored before by none other than the lead actor, Fahadh Faasil’s father, Fazil in the early 1990s in his film, Manichithrazu. Also, Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Anantaram (1987 ) had shown the development of schizophrenia in the film’s central character, Ajayan through a monologue where he was narrating the story of his entire life in the way he perceived it. Even though we saw it from his perspective, we could still make out what went wrong in his life that he himself was not aware of. Anantaram and Irakal had a similar pace- constant. In both the film, Anantaram, and Irakal, it wasn’t mentioned that the character was suffering from psychological issues but it was depicted. Hence they sort of had the same vibes.

These maker’s main objective was to show how dysfunctional families are often responsible for creating mentally imbalanced people, who may or may not end up with impaired cognitive functions. That being said, if they have violence in their gene along with impaired cognitive function, they will end up becoming a danger to either themselves or other people around them, once something or someone triggers them.

Be it Joji from Joji who was neglected to a point where he eats alone on a kitchen slab away from his family like a servant. And often faced physical attacks from his father.

Or,

 Baby from Irakal was neglected to a point where no one bothers to check where he had been the whole day or bothers to correct him if he is wrong.

Or,

 Ajayan from Anantaram who was abandoned by his mother at birth, neglected by his adoptive father, and caregivers who emotionally tortured him at night telling horror stories and making scary voices to keep him confined in a room and cover up their illegal activities that he as a kid had witnessed.

All three of them ended up in the same place. Killing others or getting aggressive towards others.

We have seen similar concepts in Todd Phillips’s Joker (2019 ) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Pyscho (1960).

We know that it is ultimately the circumstances that drive them to commit a fallacy but how and why is what these films are about.

It was a good watch and had roused my mind from the deep slumber it was in for a while. Even though it was predictable because well everybody knows where Macbeth ends but some classics are worth a watch no matter how many times it gets remade. Because almost always it’s the slow revelation of the plot that we like. Moreover, a film with Fahadh Faasil rarely ever goes wrong. 😉

DRISHYAM 2 – Are you ready to delve into Georgekutty’s vision?

Official Poster of Drishyam 2

Hi again!

So, most of you already know that the original Malayalam language film, Drishyam is back with a sequel– DRISHYAM 2. It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

 I, being the dedicated Malayalam film buff had to watch it the day it was released. Having watched it, the first thing I’m going to do is write about it here. But let me tell you it’s not exactly going to be a review. I’m not that fond of writing reviews. Who am I to judge other people’s work? So, just consider this my journal where I mostly write down thoughts I get while watching something. This page is for the stuff that ran through my mind when I was watching Drishyam 2 and some stuff that lingered on my mind, afterward.

Warning – Although I’ll not be writing the spoilers, at least not consciously. It might still give you an idea of what the plot is all about. So, I warn you to proceed with caution !

The first film ended with Georgekutty ( Mohanlal ) leaving the newly established police station with a flashback revealing the secret that solely belongs to him in the cinematic universe of Drishyam. In the real world, we, the audience now know that he had buried the body on grounds of the police station itself.

All I can say is the end of the first film and the beginning of the second film takes place in the same place and night. That fateful night in that police station. Georgekutty wasn’t alone but he doesn’t know that yet. Who was the other person and why wasn’t he seen in the first installment of the film is for you to find out.

The timeline of the main plot of the story is set to 6years after the incident. Georgekutty is revealed to be the owner of the film-theatre. Throughout the entire run of the film, you hear that he is going to be a film producer and he keeps paying a visit to a scriptwriter whom he is paying a lot to write a story that is his idea. But Georgekutty keeps delaying the start of his film production for 3 years because he is not happy with the climax.  Why so? The answer to this question is crucial to the plot and it’s also the reason behind Georgekutty’s unbroken confidence. The answer is wrapped up in the last of the twist.

As the plot unfolds, our quest to find out his real life and his film’s climax grows stronger. The fact that there’s still no climax to Georgekutty’s real story and his film’s story makes you wonder if they are connected. You will have questions- Does his film based on his own life, especially the unfortunate incident? You’ll start to have questions within a question. Why would he make a film out of that incident and expose himself? There’s a lot of Whys. Some you’ll figure out and some you won’t until the end. That way, it will hold your attention by its grip till the end.

Image Courtesy - Amazon Prime

The first half of the plot deals with George’s family’s struggle to adjust to life post the incident. Georgekutty may not live in that much fear of being discovered because unlike his family, he is not just simply being on this uncertain ride; he is in fact on the driver’s seat, controlling the car. The fear has got to his elder daughter, Anju ( Ansiba Hassan), and wife, Rani ( Meena ) with the younger daughter, Anu (Esther Anil) shown as having nerves of steel much like her father. The second half, however, is shown from the perspective of the police force. It deals with their quest to find the truth, leading to their subsequent struggle to keep up with Georgekutty who has always been five steps ahead of them.

The first film ended with the clue being given. We know where the body is buried. Yet we will feel an element of mystery and suspense as our mind will be tricked into believing there must be more to the clue and the story. That’s the magic of Jeethu Joseph‘s screenplay writing and also direction. The dialogues are thought-provoking. It makes you think about it. It’s certainly from a writer who is a keen observer of people’s behavior and he gave those behaviors a form with his dialogues so that you can interpret them easily.

One such dialogue still lingers on in my mind at this moment.

[ The one who committed the crime would never say it.  Who will be in trouble because of that? That person indeed.

But that’s not the case with people who know about the crime. They can make mistakes. As years pass, the possibility of getting it from them keeps increasing.

What’s the reason? Their fear would reduce. Confidence would increase. ]

This dialogue was quoted by the new IG Thomas ( Murali Gopy) who is secretly reinvestigating the case. He is waiting for somebody to spill the beans. He believes that somebody could either be the family member of Georgekutty or someone who has seen something but hasn’t realized so far.

Thomas’s attitude to solving the case reminds me of Agatha Christie‘s quote from one of her books.

” Everybody always knows something. Even if it’s something they don’t know they know. “

This is not the only thing to have reminded me of Agatha Christie. There are lot more things. Truth be told, I thought the writer’s modus operandi itself reminds me of Agatha Christie. I have never seen anyone else coming this close to her fineness when it comes to suspense thrillers.

The film also shows how the public changes their opinion depending on their mood. In the first film, they were against the police force because of constable Sahadevan’s mistreatment towards Georgekutty’s younger daughter. These same people are now co-operating with the force because their sentiment towards his family has changed with the change in his sudden financial and overall growth.

The film also focuses on how two mothers dealing with their respective struggles.

In the first film, we had seen Varun’s mother, Geetha’s (Asha Sharath ) struggle to deal with Varun’s disappearance. As she wasn’t aware of his accidental death, she didn’t know what to expect. Being the IG, she was used to discovering dead bodies and investigating them, but being the mother of a missing son, she was living in fear that she might discover her son but not in living condition. She was clueless and angry but holding onto hope even though her guts told her he wasn’t alive.

Georgekutty’s confession covered in metaphors at the end forced her to accept the truth that Varun is not going to come back to her. She was freed from her fear and suffering, only to be pushed into agony. In Drishyam 2, we see her living with a quest to find her son’s body and to take revenge against the entire family of Georgekutty. The rage kept her going. She is living only for that. She felt that she owes it to her son.

On the other hand, another mother, Rani is still struggling to adjust to life post that unfortunate incident. She feels deeply about it but she stays strong for her daughter, Anju who is a nervous wreck. She is also sympathetic towards Geetha’s situation but unable to help her. She is still living in fear. Fear of losing her child if the body is discovered. Not knowing where the body could have been buried meant she is unable to guess whether there is a possibility of the body being discovered. She is not freed from her fear and anxiety, unlike Geetha. Her life lacks mental peace.

Rani’s situation also reminds me of Agatha Christie’s quote from her book, Death comes at the end.

” Fear is incomplete knowledge.”

In the film, there was a song ” Ore Pakal “ that describes Rani and her family’s situation.

I’ll write down a few lines from the same song, translated into English.

” Will the dark memories vanish like a rain drying up?

Or have our silences become too heavy with burden?

 The future awaits…

Thus life endlessly moves on….and on.. “

Georgekutty was arrested with the discovery of the body but he got away with it again. How was the body found and how did he get away with it again? Well, answers to these questions will be answered by the same answers that will answer the other questions I asked a while ago. Even though he was triumphant in his attempt to save his family again, you will feel sorry for Geetha and her husband for their loss, once again but there’s nothing one can do.

Just like the Judge in the film said to the IG after Georgekutty’s acquittal.

[ Everybody knows the truth but… can’t prove it. In reality, both these families deserve justice. But we will never be able to deliver that Justice to them. ]

In the end, I look at Georgekutty and thought of Sisyphus. He and his family’s constant worry is a perfect embodiment of Sisyphus’s eternal punishment for eluding his fate.

Anyway, I think the makers just invented a concept – ” Clue within a clue and twist within a twist “. I liked it very much and I’m pretty sure you too will fall in love with it if you’re into suspense or psychological thrillers.

That being said, I have to say, I have watched so many psychological films from so many parts of the world but very few can match up to the standard of Malayalam films. They have mastered the art of psychological thrillers or dramas. They have always managed to come up with a fresh plot and their realistic approach is commendable. I can name a few examples like Fazil’s Manichithrathazhu (1993) and Poovinnu Puthiya Poonthennal (1986), Padmarajan’s Innale (1990), Lal Jose’s Classmates (2006 ), etc.

Before I sign off, I must tell you that Satheesh Kurup‘s cinematography was a delight to watch. His sense of light, colors, and framing will communicate with you. That’s for sure.

P.S: I think I may have given you a lot of clues. I hope you’ve not cracked it because I genuinely want you to watch it and experience the thrill ride that Jeethu Joseph is going to take you on.

LOOKING FOR THE MEMORABLE WORKS OF MISS CICELY TYSON?

As we all know that the legendary actress, Miss Cicely Tyson passed away last week at the age of 96. For the past one week, the news of her passing had me hover around her wikipedia and filmography lists to check whether I have missed out on any of her films that are worth watching. To tell you the truth, there aren’t too many films of hers that you can feel like avoiding because all of them are beautiful films even if her role wasn’t that big. I realized that I had missed out on quite a lot of movies of hers even though I had watched the popular ones like Sounder, The Help, Fried Green Tomatoes, How to Get Away with Murder, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Madea’s Family Reunion among others. This week I watched  The Autobiography Of Miss Jane Pittman, Mama Flora’s Family,  The Marva Collins Story, etc.

I got the urge to write about her portrayal of the characters in these films but I can’t possibly write about all of these roles so I picked the ones that have carved a special place in my heart and which I believed to be her memorable roles.

  1. Rebecca Morgan in SOUNDER

It is a 1972 American film where she played the role of Rebecca Morgan, a woman whose share-cropper husband has been put to jail for stealing ham to feed the family of 5 and a dog named Sounder. The story initially dealt with the family’s struggle to put food on the table despite working tirelessly until the patriarch of the family stole a ham one day to rescue the children from hunger they felt for days. Following his arrest, all responsibility fell on Rebecca who has to work ridiculously hard, three times as much as her husband to keep the family going.

Miss Tyson’s portrayal of Rebecca was outstanding, to say the least. She didn’t need dialogues to show Rebecca’s struggle. One look at her and you would know whether Rebecca was tired or worried sick, yet she was unable to let herself have a moment of emotional breakdown because she had no time for it. No wonder that she had got an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Rebecca.

Did you know the makers of this film had dismissed her at first stating that she was too beautiful for the part? They had to approach her later again when they failed to find anyone suitable for the role. Miss Tyson wasn’t surprised when they came back to her for the part. She had told them that she always knew this role was meant for her so she waited for the makers to realize it.

2. Jane Pittman in THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MISS JANE PITTMAN

It is a 1974 American television film where she played the role of Jane Pittman, a woman of 110 years old who was formerly a slave. The film is set during the early 1960’s Civil Rights Movement. The film deals with struggles black people faced almost a century after slavery was abolished. When a little girl was arrested for drinking from the segregated water fountain, a journalist came to interview Jane, the only living person from the time slavery wasn’t abolished, to know about the hardships black people faced those days. As she proceeded to tell her life story, the timeline moved between present-day and Jane’s past.

In her 110 years of living, she lost her parents, a boy who she raised as her own son from the age she herself was just about 14, her husband among others. How? Well, they were all killed at different periods over the years, for trying to resist the mistreatment directed at them by the racist white people.

She continued living through it all, raising another rebellious boy, Jimmy who was the son of her friend. She believed that Jimmy would live to see the change that her family died, trying to bring. When Jimmy too , was killed, she felt enraged but not tired of hoping to bring the change. She was distraught at the news of his death but did not break down because death and brutal killing of black people was all she had seen in her 110 years of living. The film ended with her fulfilling a wish of Jimmy which she had refused when he was alive. The wish was for her to go and drink from the water fountain to desegregate it, as a part of a peaceful Civil Rights protest.

The story was fictional but the things portrayed in the film were factual of the time period shown.

3. Marva Collins in THE MARVA COLLINS STORY

It is a 1981 American television film where she played the role of Marva Collins who was a real-life African-American school teacher from Chicago. The film is based on the story of how Marva challenged the educational system followed by the schools in Chicago and the whole of America. She felt that the system was broken and it prevented the children from reaching their full potential. She taught her students the power of thinking independently.

 I loved it so much that I wished I had a teacher like her. Learning is so much fun when the teacher makes it interesting instead of just sticking to reading out loud from the book pages and adding two personal comments to it.

Miss Tyson’s performance garnered her a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie.

4. Sipsey in FRIED GREEN TOMATOES

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, from left: Mary-Louise Parker, Cicely Tyson, 1991. © Universal / courtesy Everett Collection

It is a 1991 American film where she played the role of Sipsey, an African American woman who worked for Idgie, one of the main characters in the film. Her role was minor but it proved to be a very important role eventually.

The film has a plot and a subplot where Sipsey was a minor character in the sub-plot. The sub-plot was shown as a flashback, focusing on the friendship between Ruth and Idgie at whose house Sipsey worked. One day, police started coming to their place to inquire about the disappearance of Frank, the abusive husband of Ruth, soon after she left him and started living with Igie. Following the discovery of Frank’s truck in a nearby pond, Idgie was suspected and arrested for his murder. Her case was later dismissed at the court and she was released.

She was the most unsuspected character turning out to be the one with the key to the major turning point of the plot. There was a twist at the end when the narrator revealed that it was Sipsey who accidentally killed Frank in self-defense when he was trying to steal his baby from Ruth’s house to get revenge against Idgie and Ruth. Idgie stepped in to help her and her son Big George by hatching a plan to barbecue his body as telling the truth would lead to the arrest of Sipsey because the law wasn’t fair to black people back then. She fed the barbecued meat to the investigator.

Miss Tyson’s portrayal of the role was very impressive. She was known for having a powerful screen presence but this time, she made sure to not draw the slightest attention to her character until the end. In the last of the flashback scene which was set on the day the investigator arrived at their place, Sipsey was shown feeling irritated at the most minor inconveniences until the investigator stopped her to praise the barbecue, saying that it was the best he ever had. That’s when her face brightened, muttering that “ the secret is in the sauce’’ as she walked away happily. The secret of making the dish tasty lied in the sauce recipe, which also masked another secret this time that was fed to the unsuspecting investigator. It was a dark humor that I think very few can show in the manner Miss Tyson did. I noticed she had the ability to tell dark humor without making it sound as twisted as it normally would have sound.

5. Mrs. Carrie Watts in THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL

It is a 2014 American television film. It is based on a 1953 play of the same name. It was made into a film in 1985 by Horton Foote, whose daughter, Hallie Foote remade the film in 2014, but this time with an all-black cast. Miss Tyson also worked in the stage version of it in 2013.

She played the leading role of Carrie Watts, an elderly lady, an aging mother, who lives with her son and daughter-in-law. She felt dissatisfied in her son’s house because her daughter-in-law made living life difficult for her, making her feel like she lost her sense of freedom and dignity. She had one last wish to visit her old home in Bountiful, which was denied to her when she asked her son to take her there. Following his refusal, she escaped from her home and took a bus to Bountiful.  The rest of the plot is about her journey and the people she met during the journey.

6. Mama Ophelia Harkness in HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER

It is an American television series that ran from 2015-2020. It is a legal thriller about a notorious criminal lawyer, Annalise Keating who went out of her way to save the people she holds dear to her, including her students who committed accidental murders.

 Miss Tyson played the role of Ophelia Harkness, mother of Annalise. It was a recurring role. She appeared in about only 10-12 episodes but left a lasting impression on the viewers. I think she was the only person to have outperformed Viola Davis in the series.

Annalise was shown to have a love-hate relationship with her mama Ophelia and is often seen trying to get away from her. She later realized how much her mother loved her and felt guilty for having misunderstood her for the major part of her life.

Annalise, whom Ophelia addresses by her birth name, Anna Mae was once consoled by Ophelia saying that she too hid a secret, not telling a soul before her. The secret behind the fire that destroyed Annalise’s childhood home, which also killed her uncle, Clyde. Annalise initially thought she couldn’t have been more different from Ophelia only to realize later that she was in fact exactly the way Ophelia was, except that her mother was emotionally more stronger than her.

Ophelia was a sarcastic person who occasionally engaged in dark humor. As I said a while ago that I cannot think of anybody except Miss Tyson who could portray someone like Ophelia or Sipsey the way she did. This was her specialty. I don’t know what is it about her that sets her apart when it comes to playing a role like this. May be her voice? Maybe it is the way she emotes.

She keeps her acting so subtle. She acts in such a way that you would notice her presence but not any other things such as the strength or the flaws of the character until she decides to show it. She would attract your attention when her character demands it. It’s like she has control over the camera’s eyes even from being in front of the camera.

She knows when to attract and not attract your attention to her yet keeping her character noticed but the importance her character holds will be realized by you the moment she would want you to realize. You can understand this quality of her from her portrayal of the character Rebecca in Sounder, Sipsey in Fried Green Tomatoes, Ophelia in How to Get Away with Murder. She controls the depth of her character. No matter whether she has any dialogue or not, she will let her eyes and body language do the work her character demanded her to do.

Whoopi Goldberg once told Variety, “When you think about artistry and elegance in acting, Cicely Tyson is the first name that comes to mind. When you watch her work and you see her on stage or on screen, you always know it’s going to be a thoughtful performance.”

But I would like to add that it was not just a thoughtful performance but you could expect a  thoughtful movie too because that’s how she was. She didn’t just care about her role, she cared about the whole point of the story the movie is telling.

I think that being an actress is not just about having the ability to perform well but you also need to have the sense of picking a script that you think is perfect. Miss Tyson sure knew how to select a script. Whether her role was meaty or not, wasn’t of any importance to her; her only condition was that it should be a character with dignity. Moreover, the film, especially the plot of the film mattered to her. The story, the morals, and the justification of things all the characters did matter to her. She was a thorough artist who respected the art of cinema way too much to try and rise above the art form, which most artists try to do and end up ruining their career in the long run. Rather than doing all that, she had worked and helped other artists worked side by side, leading to the growth of the art form itself. It is something she took seriously.

I’m sure I’ll miss seeing any new film or tv series that has her name listed in the cast.

CICELY TYSON – A Relentless Firebrand ?

Hello, Welcome back!

I don’t know if I’m the right person to write anything about the African-Americans , their culture and cinemas. I usually do not even like to separate cinemas based on the community or races it focused on because they are just cinemas for me; just tales about people and their lives. But they exist, so I have to acknowledge it. African-Americans, too have their own cinemas, with an all-black cast, telling the tales of their past struggles and the ones that they are still struggling with, the evolution of their community and everyday lives amongst other things. Why wouldn’t they have their own films? Their community is strong and united, rich in cultures and traditions that they make sure to stay in touch with, unapologetically. They are strong, caring, and loving; fun when they want to be and fierce when they need to be. They need to tell their tales for everyone to hear of them.

They have produced umpteen political leaders, musicians, artists, and actors. One such icon was the actress, Cicely Tyson, who changed the narratives of the African-American cinemas, in her career of seven-decades. She had been around for a long time, until today. Today, she has left for her heavenly abode, at the age of 96 yet it feels it was too early for her to go. Her body of works is so huge yet it feels like it’s not enough. I still wanted to see her back on-screen again and I bet, she would have been working on one more project had she been alive. She’s the type of actor you can never get enough of. 

Ms Tyson was born in Harlem, New York City, USA on December 19, 1924, to Frederica and William Augustine Tyson, both of whom were immigrants from Nevis in the West Indies.

Cicely Tyson with her second husband, Miles Davis.

At age 18, she married Kenneth Franklin in 1942 who had soon abandoned her, leading to the dissolution of their marriage in 1956. She later married jazz trumpeter and composer, Miles Davis on November 26, 1981, and the marriage lasted until only two years before Davis’s death in 1991, due to his heavy involvement with cocaine and volatile tempers.

Ms Tyson was discovered by a photographer for Ebony magazine and became a popular fashion model. Her first acting role was on the NBC series Frontiers of Faith in 1951. She played her first film role in Carib Gold in 1956. She also became the first African American to star in a television drama when she starred in the celebrated series East Side/West Side. But she rose to fame and stardom in 1972 with her portrayal of Rebecca Morgan in the critically acclaimed film SOUNDER, for which she had also been nominated for both the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. Since then, she had left a huge body of works, ranging from her works in  Cinema, Television films and series, Stage Plays, etc.

Usually, I don’t write an article without some planning and procrastinating about it for weeks before I sit down to write them. But not this one. I just woke up to this news and my mind can’t stop thinking about it. I had to write about it. And, I am writing as I reminisce about the times her films changed my horrible state of mood to happy one or to normalcy. When I was younger, silly little troubles would seem huge and took control over my mind; that’s the moment I would just randomly pick any Cicely Tyson film. Following that, 30 mins into watching it, I wouldn’t remember what my trouble was. Plots in her films always seem to have that quality and would keep you hooked to the screen till the end.

Her most notable works include Sounder, The Autobiography Of Miss Jane Pittman, Diary Of A Mad Black Woman, How To Get Away With Murder among others.

Tyson as Ophelia Harkness

The last I had seen of her was of course her portrayal of Mama Ophelia Harkness in the television series, How to get away with Murder. It stars another powerful African-American actor, Viola Davis. I thought Tyson was the only performer who was able to outperform Davis in this series, out of all the other cast members who had more than 5 times the number of scenes she had, in the entire run of the series. I’m glad that the series completed shortly before Tyson’s death because no one could have taken her place. No one could match up to her portrayal of Mama Ophelia, mother to the notorious lawyer, Annalise Keating. You would think Keating was the strongest for being able to stay tight-lipped about the accidental murder her students committed at her place, but her doting mother, Ophelia had spent a lifetime keeping a murder secret, protecting her baby like a tigress protects her cub.

She refused to be cast in any roles of any cinema where black characters are not portrayed with respect. She had insisted that the African-American characters should be portrayed with respect and dignity, no matter what the roles are. She vowed to accept only roles of characters having ‘strength, pride, and dignity’. Owing to her uncompromising attitude towards her vows, she would be out of work for months and years. This brave act of hers also inspired other black actors and gave them the strength to refuse the roles which demeaned the black people.

She was famous for playing strong black women who would be soft as a petal but can put up a tough front and fight if need be. This quality can be seen even in Ophelia, the last role of her career. You could say that she took her crafts seriously until her very last breath.

She had been nominated for all the prestigious awards you could think of. Tyson was the recipient of three Primetime Emmy Awards, four Black Reel Awards, one Screen Actors Guild Award, one Tony Award, an honorary Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, and a Peabody Award. She won several of them. Yet, when asked about it, she had said that her most important accomplishment happened in 2016 when President Barack Obama awarded her the Medal of Freedom.

President Obama had once rightly said, “ In her long and extraordinary career, Tyson has not only exceeded as an actor, she has shaped the course of history.”

Did you know of The Role Cicely Tyson waited for 26 years to play?

Watch the embedded youtube video to know how she was once moved by Geraldine Page’s character, Mrs.Watts in the film, TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL (1985), and kept dreaming for a role like that. Much to her surprise, the director’s daughter approached her for the same role 26 years later, when she had decided to produce a stage play to be shown as a television film, of the same name and plot, but this time with an all-black cast. The way Tyson is narrating this particular event of her life feels like another movie plot in itself. Her strength, I think, lied in the way she emotes. She was a natural. She won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play, for this project.

In her remarkable career spanning over seven decades, she played both leading roles as well as supporting roles but all of them were groundbreaking. Time and again, she proved that you needn’t be a lead actor to make a difference in cinema. No matter how much screen time she would get, she would always leave you with an awestruck performance. It won’t be much of a stretch to say that she was able to make a difference with even roles that had just one scene such as her performance in the film, Madea’s Family Reunion, where she shared the screen space with the celebrated African-American poet, Maya Angelou. Angelou also worked with her in 1977 American television mini-series Roots.

Tyson with the renowned poet, Maya Angelou. ( a shot from the film, Madea’s Family Reunion.)

And, she was also a style icon, I dare not forget to mention that! Such class and sophistication in her style.

By the way, do you know what Tyson means?

Google says it means firebrand. Trust Aunt-Google because she is never really wrong.

Okay, and what is a firebrand, you wonder? It’s when someone is known for being wildly devoted to a cause or idea. Someone who wants to change things.

I think it’s more than safe to say that Ms Tyson lived up to her name. She did, unapologetically. She was a relentless firebrand in the world of cinema. At least, that’s what I believe. She paved the way for other African-American actors. She will live through her cinemas, in our hearts and minds.

ORIGINS OF THE CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS?

This is my first post that has no link to cinemas. I mean yes Cinemas has been made on the story of Christ’s life. But that’s not why I’m writing on Christmas.

So, why am I writing? You’ll know soon. First, let’s just listen to this piece of instrumental music for “O Holy Night’’, a Christmas carol I have attached below, for you to listen along as you read to find out about the origins of the Christmas traditions. It’s composed by Peder B. Helland.

I’m aware that most of you see Christmas as a festival of coming together as a family, exchanging gifts, and decorating Christmas trees and putting up socks for Santa Claus to arrive and secretly puts into it gifts for children if they have the reputation of being the well-behaved children. This wasn’t always the case. This concept emerged as a pop-culture among the people in the late 19th century and became a Christmas tradition.

What does ‘ Christmas ‘ really mean?

The name Christmas comes from the Mass of Christ. Mass service is a communion held at churches. It is held for the Christian community to collectively remember Jesus’s sacrifice for them and how he died and came back to life for them.

25th December is a significant day for the Christians and Non-Christians all over the world as they remember Christ for the sacrifices he made and most importantly, he was sent by God on earth on this day as Mary’s boy child, Jesus to protect the people.

But was he really born on this day? Probably Not.

For your information, The Holy Bible never mentioned 25th December as his birthdate. Gospels narrated stories related to his birth but none of the stories mentioned anything that could point to December as his birth month.

So then, have you ever wondered how and why this day came to be celebrated as the birthday of Jesus, The Saviour?

As of now, I have been able to use only the internet for research purposes and this yielded some results. I found a theory that had prompted the Christians to pick 25th December for the Christmas celebration.

JESUS, THE SON OF GOD.

 He was considered the son of God. Since God only has the power to light up your life and can guide you, without expecting anything in return from you. Jesus’s deeds in his life made people consider him almost an equivalent of God, hence, he was seen as a son of God.

According to one of the pagan traditions, people chose the date of 25th December to celebrate the birth of Sun God. This date was considered in Northern Hemisphere as the Winter solstice. The length of the day just gets longer from this day onwards, symbolizing the rebirth of Sun God. People gathered together to rejoice and feast to honor him on his birthdate.

This concept of worshipping the Sun God may have originated in the land that later came to be known as India and then spread to Persia and other places in the far west. The Vedas, particularly Rig Veda and also Brahmanas, mentioned Mitra, a divinity which was then associated with the light of dawn, the morning sun. In the post-Vedic era, Mitra evolved into the patron divinity of friendship who abhors all violence and protects you whenever his protection is needed. Rigveda was composed in about 1500 BCE whereas the pagan tradition related to Sun God originated in Egypt in about 1400 BCE.

To say the truth, Jesus was no less than a Sun God to the Christians as he too illuminated their life. He was also referred to as The Sun of God at times. The catholic church later adopted this date to celebrate his birthday as he was seen as the illuminator of the world, much like the Sun. This date was chosen purely because of how Jesus symbolized the Sun and the God, who also illuminates your life with lights in form of guidance as you pray to him for it.

Now, you do realize, don’t you? That the ancient people, all over the world worshipped natural phenomena like the celestial objects such as the sun and the moon; and the terrestrial objects like the air, water, fire, etc to honor them for bestowing the people with basic necessities. This kind of worshipping was a universal concept until different religions were formed. I am of the opinion that almost all religions bear some similarities as they all influenced each other.

Jesus’ birth wasn’t celebrated at all at the beginning of Christianity. They mostly celebrated Easter in remembrance of Jesus’s Resurrection until the church declared the 25th of December as Christmas. Even then, people didn’t celebrate it the way they do now. Yes, there would be mass services on this day but the grand Christmas celebration wasn’t a thing back then.

How did they celebrate Christmas? You’ll soon know the answer to this question too, but I’ll have to tell you about another infamous Christmas tradition before that.

SAINT NICHOLAS – THE SECRET SAVIOUR

 Sir St.Nicholas aka Santa Claus existed in 4th century A.D. He was an early Christian bishop of Greek Descent.  He was actually a lean-looking man who was known as Saint Nicholas of Myra. He was also famous for performing miracles which was the result of his prayers for other people. He gained a name for that – Nicholas the Wonderworker.

The name Santa Claus evolved from Nicholas’ Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas). Some say children mispronounced his name and called him Santa Claus.

His habit of secretly giving gifts to people was legendary. He was in fact a very generous man yet humble and modest in characteristics. He loved to help people, especially needy people but never in public just to save them for humiliation attached to the act of accepting charity.

When his parents passed away, he distributed all their wealth to the poor and needy people. He helped countless people but among them, one story stood out. The legend goes like there was a rich man who had lost all his wealth later and couldn’t afford proper dowries for his three daughters. As we all know, how dowries were big deal back then, I mean some people even kill these days for non-payment of dowries, so you can imagine the plight of his daughters back then. When Nicholas heard of it, he decided to help them but not publicly. He planned to do it secretly one night. On the planned night, he threw a purse filled with gold coins through the window. The man’s first daughter was married off with that wealth. Then Nicholas repeated the same thing for the other daughters. He had nothing to do with Christmas Day but of course, he was a good Christian, a bishop to say the least.

This piece of information inspired Clement Clarke Moore to write a poem, A Visit from Saint Nicholas in 1823. This poem is also known Twas the night before Christmas, which is the first line of the poem.

This poem tells the tale of a father who hung stockings by the chimney in hope of getting a visit from St.Nicholas who was known for his generosity and gift-giving. The father heard a noise out on the lawn on the night before Christmas and saw Nicholas having arrived with his eight reindeers. Indeed, he came and filled the stockings with gifts. Before he left, he wished him, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

St.Nicholas as painted by Jaroslav Cermak.

The poem described Nicholas as a man with a beard as white as snow, cheeks like roses, dressed in red fur covering him from head to toe, held a pipe tightly with his teeth, calling him a chubby man, like a jolly old elf. You get the picture in your head yet? That’s the image the poet created of him. He was nothing like that in reality.

 I found a picture of him where he looked lean and tall. This was a painting of him, made by the 19th century Painter Jaroslav Cermak. His depiction or portrayal of the saint is somewhat accurate I think as I found it to match the description made by the human anatomy professor, Luigi Martino who studied the remains of Nicholas in the late 1950s.

This poem is responsible for bringing on the conception of Santa Claus and the tradition of exchanging gifts on Christmas day. It became popular in the mid 19th century in The United States and soon spread all over the world.

Earlier, Christians would remember Christ and help the poor and less fortunate people without expecting anything in return from them, in the memory of Christ. Yes, this is the answer to that question.

So, there you have it. This day has people celebrating things that never really has anything to do with this date. Yet I must say that it doesn’t matter at the end of the day. Why should it? People just invented a reason, albeit a beautiful one, to come together and bond on this day over a shared love for Christ and Saint Nicholas.

Hope you had a good time reading this post.

Here’s wishing you, folks, a Merry Christmas filled with moments of love, laughter, and goodwill!

CHRISTMAS SPECIALS: What to watch this Christmas?

Hello folks, Welcome back to my blog!

Umm, so, we have Christmas coming on this week. And the cinephiles in some of you must have memories of watching cinemas that have Christmas as its background, don’t’ you?

I do. There are tons of them. But I’ll list some of the memorable ones that you can watch or re-watch this Christmas since most of you have ample time this year, given the pandemic situation we are facing. Or, you can also re-watch Christmas special cinemas or series that’s close to your heart.

Here are some of the memorable ones, at least they’re for me as some of them made my childhood better.

HARRY POTTER FILM SERIES

I don’t think I need to say anything about this series. The majority of you have already watched it. Since I have already dedicated a whole article to it in my last post, I’ll only be adding significant points this time.

 I reckon that it gives a Christmas vibe only because of a few minor scenes. Those minor scenes were possibly one of the very few light-hearted and heartwarming scenes of the series filled mostly with serious and dark moments.

 It was sweet of Ron’s family to take in Harry every Christmas to celebrate it. Not to forget that Harry received the Invisibility Cloak as a present one Christmas. Another reason I associate this series with Christmas is that Pogo, the popular television channel had a sort of tradition to re-run the series every winter around Christmas time.

 It used to be a hot topic of conversation and still is, among children and adults alike.

MR.BEAN

It is a British sitcom set either in the late 1980s or at the beginning of the 1990s.

It had numerous Christmas special episodes but just a couple of them are etched in my memory.

The first is the one where he goes out to shop for Christmas.

The Nativity Scene

He recreated the nativity scene in a toy shop where he had a toy dinosaur come and scare Jesus’s family which in turn gets killed by toy military tank cars. He had a war break out in an otherwise peaceful nativity scene. He was later disrupted in the middle of his recreation game by the manager of the store who had a toy police officer arrive at the nativity scene, suggesting Bean to get out of the store. It was hilarious. But it wasn’t the end.

 He went out on the street only to pull a beard of a man in Santa’s costume to check whether it was his real beard. Turned out it was real, so he ran from there. It had other scenes filled with laughter.

Bean with Irma

Another episode I remember was the one he was trying to cook a turkey for Christmas dinner for him and Irma, his girlfriend. I particularly remember this episode because this was one of the very few Mr.Bean episodes to have ended on a sad note. It started with a hilarious scene where he had his head inside the turkey while looking for his wristwatch that too had stuck inside the turkey. Soon, Irma arrived with a cool present for him only to be gifted with a random portrait which she believed to be a thoughtless present. It was a result of a misunderstanding on Bean’s part rather than thoughtlessness. His childlike attitude always got him in trouble. Sad no one tried to understand him, not even Irma, who then left him.

It’s one of those series you repeat hundreds of times and still never get bored. I remember guests coming to my place, trying to talk to the child me but my attention was all on the tv playing Bean episodes. I wouldn’t even budge from there a bit to talk to them even though I must have had already watched those episodes a thousand times.

FRIENDS

It is an American sitcom set in the 1990s and was aired until 2004.

Friends episodes tend to be quite chaotic when there’s some festive or any celebratory occasion going on, be it Thanksgiving, Christmas, or wedding episodes. But I found this one rather sweet.

This episode is titled ” The one with the Holiday Armadillo ”.

I first learned of Hannukah from this episode itself. Although the episode didn’t exactly tell you the story behind Hanukkah but at least mentioned bits and pieces about it. I later read more to found out the actual story. You too can do it if you haven’t any idea about Hanukkah. It’s a Jewish festival celebrated around the same time as Christmas.

Here in this episode, Ross was trying to teach his adolescent son, Ben about Hanukkah who was more interested in Christmas given the grandeur and popularity it has over Hanukkah in the States. Ross’s attempt to impart lessons on Hanukkah led to some sort of laugh riots.

 Moreover, it has both Christmas and Hanukkah vibes. But don’t go looking for seriousness because it’s a sitcom full of grown-up babies, who when the time and need comes, act their age. It’s cute sometimes. A light-hearted comedy you can watch to get you into a peppy mood anytime.

HOME ALONE

It is a series of American Christmas family-comedy films. Though I only found the first part worthy enough to be remembered. The first film of the series titled HOME ALONE was released in 1990. There was a time when it used to be every child’s favorite film.

The film is about a child of 8years old, Kevin who was accidentally left behind by his ”extra-large”  family who was on their way to Paris to spend Christmas there. The family is so huge that his parents didn’t realize what they had done until they were on the plane already. Kevin, on the other hand, was delighted to find his family gone. He went berserk on having found the freedom until he heard two burglars planning to rob his home. The film is about how he tackled the situation. Surely all of you’ve known of the infamous booby trap scenes of this film. This film has numerous scenes that will set a Christmas mood but mostly, there was chaos. Even with the chaos, you would feel for the child because what’s Christmas without family?

THE PREACHER’S WIFE

It is a 1996 American comedy-drama film. It is a delight for anyone who admires the late pop singer, Whitney Houston, who was also known for her soulful gospel songs. I, for one, never knew she could act so well until I had seen her in this film. It was a delightful surprise for me as it will be for you.

The film is about Henry who is a pastor of a small failing African-American Baptist church and is constantly pressurized by Mr.Hamilton who wants him to sell the church’s property to him so that he can build a luxury complex. Henry was struggling under intense pressure and was beginning to neglect his wife, Julia, and son, Jeremiah. He prayed to God for a miracle, which God sent to him in form of Dudley, an angel whom no one believes when he claims to be an angel. With Christmas approaching, Henry became increasingly busy, unknowingly pushing Julia and his son to spend more time with Dudley. The rest of the story is about how Dudley helps Julia prepare for the upcoming Christmas program and simultaneously also helps the family to overcome their issues. The film is full of comic moments showing how other people made hilarious assumptions about Dudley.

And, it got good soundtracks too. My personal favorites are ”I believe in You and Me” and ”My Heart is Calling”.

VARNAPAKITTU

It is a 1997 Indian Malayalam language family drama film.

 It centers around a Malayali Christian family and few other people living in the same neighborhood, like any good old Malayalam film. Malayalam films are infamous for making beautiful family dramas. You’ll get a glimpse of what a sense of community looks like as it is something I don’t see in most places. I have sensed that kind of vibe in the Latin American community when I read their books and watched their cinemas. This film too has it along with drama, action, twists, and turns but what stood out in the entire film is the music, especially the Christian devotional song, Anupamasneha Chaithanyame sung by K.S Chithra.

STEPMOM

It is a 1998 American family drama. It tells the story of a terminally ill mother, Jackie who is divorced with two children. She harbors a grudge against her ex-husband Luke and his fiancé, Isabel, the stepmom to be of her children. She kept complaining to Luke about Isabel’s parenting and actively tries to sabotage Isabel’s effort to bond with the children.

 She hadn’t informed her family of her cancer as she thought she was going to survive it until she realized that she’s nearing her death. It angered her as she felt defeated in life, making her hate Isabel even more because she felt as though Isabel was replacing her in both the children and Luke’s lives.

 Her attitude towards Isabel will change for the good when she will think of her children’s well being, the fact that they are going to need a mother figure in their lives when she will be gone.

This is not centered around Christmas at all. I decided to name it in the list because of one last scene of the film which is set on Christmas morning.

 It was perhaps Jackie’s last Christmas. That morning, she shared emotional moments with them, individually, telling them that she will remain with them as long as they remember her, even after her death. She wanted to make it memorable for the children so she made handmade presents for them, a beautiful quilt for her daughter that she made with fabrics that have pictures of them printed on it. For her son, she made a cloak. The gesture made by her made it the most beautiful yet heartbreaking scene from this film.

 Watch it for Susan Sarandon who played Jackie.

A MADEA CHRISTMAS

It is a 2013 American Christmas comedy film. It is a part of the Madea film franchise, written and directed by Tyler Perry. This is also the first Christmas-themed film of the Madea franchise.

To those who don’t know of Madea, let me tell you a bit about her. It is sure to make you burst into laughter.

Madea is an elderly African-American woman of about 70-80 years old. Her full name is Mabel Simmons. She is afraid of nothing in life, I repeat, nothing but police officers, especially white police officers for she went through the time when black people were killed and harassed on daily basis in the 1950s and ’60s.

But more than the oppression, her reason for fear was that she was sent to jail countless times due to her own batshit crazy behaviors in public. She is nothing like your good old grandma kinda elderly woman. If she loses her shit, which she does frequently, she will fly right at you to whack you.

Guess who plays the role of Madea? The director Tyler Perry himself. Yes, a male actor. Watch it for him. He got crazy skills and funny bones.

CAROL

It is a 2015 romantic film drama based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel, The Price of Salt.

 Nah, it has nothing to do with Christmas carol.

Set in NYC during the early 1950s, the film tells the story of a forbidden affair between an aspiring female photographer named Therese and Carol, an older woman going through a difficult divorce. They first met during the Christmas season, so you can see many scenes involving Christmas related activities. But I suggest you watch it for the beautiful story behind it and you’ll also be treated with amazing visuals which are typical of all Todd Haynes films.

Thanks for reading. See you again, soon!

RAY AND ROWLING – BHOOT’ER RAJA IN HARRY’S WORLD?

Winter is here. It reminds me of the winter vacations during my childhood. Those days, I spent the vacation visiting my grandparents’ home every day and watching movies; pretty sure that the cinephile in you must have done the same. I remember spending the first part of my childhood winter vacation watching Ray’s Goopy Bagha film series. But that soon changed when I was introduced to the Harry Potter film series by my aunt.

For me, winter is synonymous with Harry Potter series. Pogo, the popular television channel made it a point to run the series every winter and I would excitedly wait for it all year long to watch.

Coming back to the Goopy Bagha series, let me tell you something about it that I often thought. As a child, I often felt a Harry Potter vibe in Goopy Bagha films but I couldn’t exactly figure out what made me feel it. I used to think that it was probably because both the films had a folktale-ish vibe and magic.

Growing up, I was finally able to make several connections between these two series over the years. They are so subtle that you wouldn’t notice them at first.I’ll start with minor similarities and then move on to the major one which served as the undertone or theme of both the series. Before I do that, I’ll add a summary for the two series.

Goopy Bagha Series – This is a three-part film series. The first one is Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, released in 1969. The story was originally written as a short story by Satyajit Ray’s grandfather Upendrakishore Raychowdhury in 1915, which Ray later adapted into a screenplay and directed. Ray took the two characters, Goopy and Bagha from the story and developed the plots to make two more films, one being Hirok Rajar Deshe (1980) which he wrote and directed himself. The other one, Goopy Bagha Phire Elo (1992), which was the third and final part of the series, was however directed by his son, Sandip Ray.

The story is about Goopy and Bagha, who sing and play dholak (hand-drum) respectively. When Goopy’s voice blended with Bagha’s beats, they produced such a charm that could make any living beings motionless. People couldn’t move till their performance ended.

” What kind of sorcery is this? ” I’ll have to go back a bit to tell you how and why this was possible for these maestro-duos!

Goopy-Bagha were thrown out of their respective villages for their terrible vocal and music skills, hence they came to take shelter in a forest where they met each other for the first time. They were singing when gangs of ghosts came out from the trees and started dancing around them. The king of Ghosts, Bhoot’er Raja was so impressed that he decided to give them three boons. They said that they would like to never starve for food.  He blessed them with such a superpower that all they had to do to get any food or clothes of their choice was to clap their two palms together. For the second boon, they said they would love to travel. Bhoot’er Raja gifted them two pairs of magical shoes that could take them anywhere they wanted once they wore it and clap their one palm together. For the third boon, they said they wish to entertain people by singing and beating drums for which they were given the power to make people motionless with their musical performance.

 Using their extraordinary powers, they were able to travel from place to place, encountering different people and helping them solve their issues using their powers.

Harry Potter Series – It’s 7 part film series originally adapted from a 7 part book series by J.K Rowling. It’s about three friends – Harry, Ron, and Hermione, students of Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft and Wizardy, going out of their way to get into troubles and crisis, partly because of their over smartness and partly instigated by the actions of Voldemort, the number one public enemy in the Wizarding world. They would be able to solve the crisis temporarily only to be met with another crisis in the following academic year until a full-blown war broke out at the end of the series, between the dark wizards and the humble nice ones. It was much more than that which I’m sure all of you know. It had another interesting angle which I would love to talk about in another post, someday.

Let me start with the minor similarities :

The first similarity is a very obvious one. Goopy and Bagha went into exile after being thrown out of their respective villages but soon situations made them turn into friends on a mission. The Harry Potter series is so widely popular that I don’t need to go into details but yet I have to. I’ll just leave the first one be.

In the film, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, I see a character summoned by Mantri, the evil minister in the court of the King of Halla. The character was that of a magician who is an expert at making potions. He is called Barfi. He sports a long white beard, wears a long sleeve cloak, and also carries a walking stick which is used to cast a magic spell. Does the description ring a bell? You got it right, he looks a lot like Professor Dumbledore except that Dumbledore had a more powerful presence, of course. Barfi was a rather funny character. He also indulged in practicing dark magic, unlike the professor.

Barfi , the magician

As you know, there have been different evil characters in each of the Goopy Bagha films. Among the three, the last of the series had a character, Brahmananda Acharya, an evil sorcerer who bore a slight similarity with the Dark Lord, Voldemort. Like Voldemort, he had an unnatural desire – to be immortal. He mostly wore all red attire much like Voldemort’s all-black attire. Acharya heard of a prophecy that a boy of 12 years old, named Bikram would be the cause of his death, one day. He feared death. He practiced meditation for years because of which he gained some superpowers but it wasn’t enough for him. He sought immortality from a greater sorcerer which was denied to him because of his dark past and inability to let go of his greed for wealth and precious gemstones. Upon learning this, he had his man kidnap all the boys named Bikram from villages near him. Unfortunately, his henchman could only find Bikrams who were of age 13. Acharya kept the boys at his place, casting such a spell on them that they were at his command. Like him, Voldemort too was told of a prophecy that stated a boy born on 31st of July would be the cause of his end. Two boys, Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom were born that day. He had decided on Harry and we all know what happened next.

The boy who was destined to end Acharya was difficult to be found, despite living right near him was because he went by the name, Kanu instead of Bikram, which was his birth name. Kanu was an orphan and lived with his Dadu(grandfather). It was later revealed by his Dadu that his horoscope stated Kanu would suddenly gain divine powers the moment he was to turn 12. Rightly so, he gained the power and became instantly aware of it, ran to bring an end to Acharya’s existence. His presence was enough to end Acharya. The scene where we see Acharya getting destroyed reminded me of a scene from Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone. There, his body looked as though it was sinking beneath the ground he stood on and soon became a smoke, leaving his red attire behind on the floor. It looked a lot like how Professor Quirrell became ashes on being touched by Harry leaving his clothes behind on the floor; thereby turning Voldemort’s soul possessing his body into vicious-looking smoke. Not to forget Voldemort was looking for Sir Nicholas Flamel’s stone that could grant him immortality. Harry was 11years old in the first part of the series which meant he was a year younger than Kanu. Acharya’s end was permanent while Voldemort’s end was to become permanent years later by another orphan boy.

To be precise, I thought Voldemort’s characteristics bears resemblance with all the three villains of Ray comprised together. You see Mantri at the fort had the magician make a potion for the King of Halla, so that the king, under the effect of the potion, could be controlled by him. He wanted to use him to do whatever he desired, especially to fight against the king’s twin brother, King of Shundi. The act of controlling somebody using magic is something that can also be seen in the Harry Potter series. We know there are three unforgivable curses mentioned in the series. One of the unforgivable curse that bears resemblance to this is called the Imperius Curse. Voldemort was notorious for using unforgivable curses. He also bore a similarity with Hirok’s Raja who was power-hungry and had his scientist perform the act of brainwashing against people who defied him much like how Voldemort had death eaters perform all such cruel actions against people who defied him.

In one scene of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we see Ron, his family, Harry, Hermione, and Cedric’s family gathering around a shoe which when they touched transported them to another location. The shoe was called Portkey. Of course, that’s the same thing as the pair of shoes gifted by Bhoot’er Raja to The Goopy-Bagha duo. The method of using the shoe might be different but the purpose served by the shoe is very much alike.

In Hirok Rajar Deshe, we have a headmaster, Udayan who runs a pathshala (Indian term for school taking place in open space). He teaches his students to fight against wrong things. Hirok’s Raja decided to put a stop to the education of people living there so that they remain ignorant to not notice his misdoings. He feared that education will make them sharper and in turn, they will try to remove him from the throne. Professor Umbridge In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is similar in characteristics to him. She curtailed the use of magic in Hogwarts and tried to limit the children from learning practical magic spells for she feared that they would use those spells against her and the Ministry of Magic where she is an employee. The Ministry reeked with corruption and she was very well indulging in it.

In yet another scene of Hirok Rajar Deshe, we see Goopy and Bagha were being instructed by the headmaster to steal diamonds from Raja’s palace, as a part of the plan to overthrow Hirok Raja’s regime. He was able to get all the villagers on his side to start a revolt against the Raja but he needed to make the guards of the palace and the scientist employed by the Raja join his mission. He knew bribing them with diamonds was the only way out. When Goopy- Bagha reached outside the room where diamonds are kept in a treasure, they saw that the door to the room was being guarded by a man who wore on his waist the key. They sang to make him motionless to get the key. Once they unlocked the door and entered the room, they saw a tiger was guarding another set of keys that is to be used to unlock the diamond treasury. They once again sang a song, ‘ Paye Pori Baghmama ‘ and the rest we all know. The mission was successful.

I know what you must be wondering. Of course, they could charm the tiger too; such was the power of their magical music performance.

An animal guarding something as precious as diamonds is sure to remind you of Fluffy. Fluffy, the three-headed dog was guarding a door on the second floor of Hogwarts. We all know what Harry and his friends had to go through to get Sir Nicholas Flamel’s stone which Voldemort desperately wanted so that he could turn immortal.

Not to forget the connection with the forests. There are numerous scenes of the forest in the Goopy-Bagha and Harry Potter series. There are probably a few more similarities but I would rather not bore you readers with those details.

Now, let me tell you about this major point that I recognized only last year.

In Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part-1, there was a scene where Harry and his friends visited Luna’s father, Xenophilius Lovegood who narrated to them a story about the deathly hallows. The story- The Tale of the Three Brothers was a chapter from Beedle The Bard, a folktale book of the wizarding world.

The Tale of Three Brothers begins with the three brothers halting near a river that was too deep to wade across, so they used a magic trick to build a bridge. Death was so impressed that he appeared to congratulate them and offered them three rewards. Death’s real intention was to set up a trap for them in the disguise of rewards because he felt cheated by their survival. The first brother asked for a weapon that would always win any battle. Death gave him The Elder Wand. The second brother wanted something to give him power over Death. Death gave him The Ressurection Stone. The third brother, however, did not trust Death; so he asked for something that would allow him to avoid Death. Death was trapped by his own words and handed over his Cloak Of Invisibility.

Time passed. The first brother provoked a duel once with a wizard he disliked, thus killing him with the elder wand. He later boasted about his wand, which eventually led to his wand being stolen from him after him being murdered. The second brother brought his dead lover back to life using the resurrection stone but found misery instead when he realized that his lover didn’t love him the way she did in her past. Following his realization, he committed suicide. The third brother hid from Death his entire life using the invisibility cloak until he was old enough to die. He after reaching old age, decided to stop using the cloak and handed it over to his son. He soon met Death willingly and departed as an equal, unlike the other two brothers whose lives were claimed by Death himself using his clever folly.

This story always made me think of Bhoot’er Raja, who is not Death but King of Ghosts. He has almost the same powers as Death. He can perform the task of taking lives for Death. Just like Death, he gave three boons to Goopy-Bagha because he was impressed with them. He didn’t have evil intentions like Death though. I have a feeling that Upendrakishore Raychowdhury was inspired by one of the tales from Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.

The chapter from The Canterbury Tales is The Pardoner’s Tale.

During the height of the black plague, three men sit in an inn, eating and drinking one morning when they saw people taking away a coffin by the inn. They asked the servant who had died, to which they were told that the dead man was a friend who was stabbed last night by a thief called Death. The three men thinking that the thief might still be lurking around and decided to seek him out to kill him.

On their way to find the thief, they met with an old man who explained that he must wander the earth until he finds someone willing to exchange youth for old age. He also said that he is so unlucky that even this cruel thief called Death will not touch him. Hearing him speak of Death, they asked him for death’s whereabout, and the old man directed them to a tree at the end of the lane. They rushed to the tree and found eight bushels of gold coins, which made them forget about death and they decided to divide it among themselves. They decided to wait for nightfall so that they could take it to their respective home without anyone noticing them. Three men decided that one of them would go to town to get some food and wine, while two of them would stay behind to guard the gold. When he left to get food, the other two men decided to kill him when he come back so that they wouldn’t have to share the gold with him. The third one on his way to get food decided to kill the other two men by poisoning them and have all the golds to himself. When he came back with the poisoned wine, he was killed by the two men who then decided to eat and drink before they could part with the golds. Unbeknownst to them, they drunk the poisoned wine and died instantly. Thus, all three met with Death.

I felt this story inspired Upendrakishore Roychowdhury to come up with the idea of Bhoot’er Raja in Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne. But unlike the pardoner’s tale, his wasn’t a moral story at all. Although when Ray made it into a film series and by the time he ended the series with Goopy Bagha Phire Elo for which he wrote the screenplay, he turned it into almost a moral story filled with socio-political issues. I say moral story because Ray’s Goopy Bagha Phire Elo had Bhoot’er Raja making an appearance, warning Goopy and Bagha to stop stealing gemstones for the evil sorcerer in exchange for youth. Their desire to get back youth felt almost like a form of greed. Rowling’s The Tale of Three Brothers, however, retained the theme of The Pardoner’s Tale, which was a moral story indeed. Rowling’s tale resembled the Pardoner’s tale so much that I had to google whether she ever spoke anything about it. Turned out that she did. She was inspired by that story. The theme was – Greed is the root of all evils. That was the theme in both the film series and in Raychowdhury as well as Chaucer’s story.

Characters like the Mantri, Hirok’s Raja, Acharya, Voldemort, Death Eaters, the three men from the inn, and the three brothers turned malicious because of their greed for things beyond the average human’s reach. Greed turned them blind and they soon fell into a dark pit.

I can’t say for sure whether Rowling took inspiration from Ray’s films or that Raychowdhury took any inspiration from The Pardoner’s tale but I must say I’m amazed at how they took one theme using which they churned out stories set in another time, place, culture, and situations. While the concept and theme are similar yet at the same time, the approach is different. I believe it’s an extraordinary thing to take inspiration from something and tweak it to create a completely different creative universe out of it.

Did I successfully trick you into reading the article? I’m sorry there’s literally no Bhoot’er Raja in the Harry Potter films. That was just a trick to get you interested. Being a muggle, I couldn’t possibly use a magic spell but a psychological trick that I was so thrilled to use on you. (Evil smirks).

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA?

If you’re into watching Cinemas of the West, especially European Cinema, chances are that you’ve come across a scene involving musicals in a theatre or opera house. I have noticed the makers in the west tend to pick  ‘Phantom Of The Opera’ to be shown in musicals scene just as they pick a Shakespeare drama to be shown in a play scene.

Since ” The phantom of the Opera ” re-appeared times and again in the scenes of European Cinema, it grabbed my attention once and I was curious enough to give it a read. What happened after I finished reading the novel is the topic of the content this time. I’ll come back to it later.

It’s a classic fiction written by a journalist turned author, Gaston Leroux. The novel was originally written in French and was titled Le Fantôme de l’Opéra. It was first published as a serialization and later in volume form in March, 1910. In my opinion, it’s not completely fiction yet I’ll agree that it’s a wonderfully created product of a curious mind. Curious and Imaginative mind. 

THE NOVEL

We learn of this story through the narrator’s words. We don’t know who the narrator is but we assume it is the author himself gathering scoop and providing them to us the readers as we unfold the mystery of the opera house along with him.

 The story is about a man named Erik who lived like a shadow in the opera house, often terrorizing people for the sake of it, which earned him a name – The ghost or The Phantom. But the narrator suspected that he wasn’t a ghost and made it clear that he wasn’t from the very beginning.

 The whole plot is a product of various incidents involving Erik and the opera members, including a singer, Christine Daae whom he fancied but soon turned into his obsession. Why Erik lived like a shadow? He had a deformed face that people often described as the Death’s Head. He wore a mask to hide his face but it got revealed to more people than he would have wanted. The fact that Erik wasn’t an ordinary man but a very violent one was made clear to the readers by comparing his disfigured face with that of a human skull with rotten skin and followed by the incident of Joseph Buquet’s death. Buquet was an employee at the opera house who had described the phantom’s appearance to others and was later found dead. You could feel in your bone that it was Erik’s doing.

Erik didn’t get anybody’s affection in his entire life, not even a mother’s love. He ran away from his home and survived doing a lot of odd jobs using his artistic talents. He was an extremely skilled illusionist and architect but he couldn’t secure a job in normal society because of his face. Therefore, he did shady jobs which had him always on the run for his life. He was tired of it and decided to live an ordinary life but that wasn’t possible for him as society wasn’t comfortable with his presence, hurting his sentiments. He then started living like a shadow in the opera house, playing scary pranks on people making them believe he was a ghost. That was his way of staying in touch with society and yet away from the people of the society. Through his antics, he felt his own existence among the people. Everything was okay for him until he met Christine who believed He was the Angel of Music.

He transformed Christine into a singer with extraordinary vocal skills. He got obsessed with her and barred Christine from marrying anyone when he found out she had a romantic interest in Raoul. He said he would not come to give her a music lesson if she marries anyone. Christine didn’t find it odd as she was initially smitten with the idea of the Angel of Music blessing her with his presence and helping her hone the vocal skill. Erik’s loneliness made him take advantage of that and let her believe it so that she keeps coming to him. This continued until Christine found out the truth about him which scared her and made her sick to the stomach.

Christine with Erik and Raoul

 She then decided to get away from his trap and marry Raoul, whom she earlier rejected on Angel’s insistence. Raoul and she planned to get away but she was kidnapped by Erik who, then presented her with two choices – To marry him or to die. Christine decided to marry him but that was a lie she told him because she knew that he was going to blow up the opera house if she didn’t agree to marry. The unexpected end was that Erik came to his sense after a kiss from Christine and decided to let her go and free Raoul and The Persian whom he kept in the torture chamber. The kiss was something he never got from his own parents , thus having more deeper impact on him than it would have on any ordinary soul.

ERIK – NOT JUST A PHANTOM

I loved how the author made Erik become a part of the three worlds  – Heaven, Earth, and Hell.

His deformed face earned him a name – Death’s head and the ghost. His actions, resulting from his unhealthy obsession with Christine was no less than a doings of a monster from  Hell.

His unhealthy attachment toward’s Christine, however frightening that was, stemmed from the fact that she was the only person who kept coming back to him even though she had her own reason for coming, which was not in Erik’s interest. For the first time in his life, he bonded with somebody even though it was not under natural circumstances. He, being a mere man, a human, deprived of his parent’s love and society’s acceptance, naturally started to want more of Christine than just her attention.

His voice was the thing that first attracted Christine’s attention. Initially, Christine hadn’t seen Erik but only heard him and took vocal lessons from him. Christine believed it was The Angel of Music from Heaven, who comes to give her lessons. She believed him to be an angel not just because she was naïve but also because she grew up listening to stories from her beloved father who was no more. Her father told many stories involving the Angel of Music, who was believed to appear in the most unexpected time in people’s lives and blessed them with an extraordinary musical talent. His father promised her to send the angel from heaven after his death.

THE SOURCES OF INSPIRATION

Once I finished the novel, I wasn’t yet done with it. I was curious enough to dig the internet to find something more about this plot but I didn’t know what to expect. Maybe it was my intuition that took me there. I found some pieces of information that could interest you because they served as the inspiration for the plot. This is what I wanted to share.

 I’ll now point out which part of the plot was inspired by which real-life incidents or person.

Underground Lake

The construction of the opera house, Palais Garnier took 15years to be completed. While building the opera house, the workers faced numerous problems but one of the problems persisted for the longest of time; the problem being the groundwater in the basement that was hard to keep away even with the machinery built for it. After a lot of consideration, Charles Garnier, the architect came up with a plan to build an underground cistern over the groundwater to protect the substructure from moisture.

It soon gave rise to the rumor that there was an underground lake beneath the opera house.

This rumor served as the inspiration for ” Phantom’s hidden lair ” which was said to be near the underground lake. He lived there and also kept a torture chamber made with multiple mirrors.

This kept reminding me of the underground scene at the end of Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets.

The Fall Of The Chandelier

There was another incident that took place at the Paris Opera House on 20th May, 1896 when one of the counterweights of the chandelier weighing 800kg fell to the ground, killing a concierge.

This incident inspired the author to come up with the chapter that involved the falling of a chandelier. There was a point in the story where Erik sent letters; blackmailing the new opera managers-duo Moncharmin and Richard with several demands. He instructed them to pay him twenty-thousand francs per month and that the Box Five be reserved for him at all times. He also ordered them to replace the opera singer, Carlota with the new singer, Christine. He also stated that they should reinstate back the former box attendant, Madame Giry who attended to the phantom’s needs now and then in exchange for a few francs. They had sacked Madame Giry because they thought her to be insane as she claimed to have served to ‘’ the ghost “. He threatened to curse the performance if his demands are not respected.

The opera managers laughed at the demands and considered it a joke. They didn’t agree to any demands.

On the night of the performance, Carlota’s voice started to croak, making the opera managers anxious because she was too perfect a singer to croak like that in the middle of a performance. Just then, they heard a voice whispering that the chandelier was about to fall. Within a second, they looked up as the chandelier fell to the ground, killing a woman. Much to their horror, she turned out to be the same woman who was supposed to be Madame Giry’s replacement.

Christine Daae

The real-life Christine Daae

There was a singer by the name of Christina Nilsson who lived during the time author was writing the novel. She was a Swedish soprano who often signed her first name as Christine. She later married Angel Ramon Maria Vallejo y Miranda, Count de Casa Miranda. She participated in the Metropolitan Opera’s inaugural performance in Charles Gaunod’s Faust, a popular opera in five acts.

Just like Christina, the character Christine Daae was also a soprano of Swedish origin. She was in love with Viscount Raoul De Chagny, a member of one of the noblest families in France. She also performed as Marguerite in Faust.

Few more pieces of information seemed to have inspired the author to cook up this story. I have chosen not to write them here as those have not been proved. Some of them remained a rumor, rather a mystery, till now.

The romance part of the novel itself seemed to be The Beauty and The Beast themed. Just that The Beast was not as ill-fated as Erik.

Once you have read it, you would know that Leroux was a very perceptive man with a great sense of aesthetic.

TRUTH OR NOT?

The truth about The Phantom Of The Opera is that it is not a true story although the author was said to have claimed that it was a true story. Personally, I think it’s not completely fiction. It’s a mix of both – fiction and non-fiction. He may have found inspirations from the real-life incidents mentioned and maybe a few unmentioned; used them as the backdrop of the romantic novel. None of the real-life incidents were connected to each other.

 The author was an investigative journalist before becoming an author. That’s partly why it felt like a detective story told from the perspective of a Truth Seeker.

PADMARAJAN , who ?

Today, I am writing about Padmarajan and his film Innale, which is a Malayalam film released in the year 1990. Before I write about that, let’s talk about why I picked Innale and begin my first blog with it.

To answer this, I need to tell you something about me. I am an avid cinephile , so I often travel around the world through cinemas. Yes, you read that right. Funny? Not a problem. But it’s true that cinemas can take you anywhere you want , not physically, but you’ll be mentally transported. Through cinemas, I have visited  a lot of regional places of India and abroad. I have learnt about cultures, traditions, fashion, food, literature, dance, music, art and society of various places through this medium. You name it and it’s there. So, every once in a while, I get into a phase when I am always talking about cinemas of particular state or country. Presently, I’m into malayalam cinema for the past three months, for the third time in my life.

This year, my malayalam phase started with a recent film, Varane Avashyamund which rekindled my passion about everything malayalam , once again. This film made me focus on Shobana, whose charm then transported me to her 1990’s film , Innale , directed by the legendary film-maker P.Padmarajan.

Varane Avashyamund had the same pair – Shobana and Suresh Gopi, who worked together in Innale 30 years ago. Just that they didn’t have longer screen time in Innale as the film focused more on Shobana -Jayaram, but the impact that her pairing with Suresh Gopi had on people was profound.The way, director handled the subject of Amnesia so realistically in Innale is something you will not even find in cinemas of 21st century. Malayalam cinema and especially, Padmarajan was way more ahead of his time. That’s what I’ll talk about in this blog.

Basic plotline – Film opens with a bus accident in the middle of the night in a small rural settlement in Kerala. All the passengers died on the spot, except a few. Only one of them survived without any serious physical injury but suffered Amnesia. She is Maya. No one including herself knew who she was and where she was from. No one came to claim her despite the efforts to search for her identity. This film deals with how the girl with no past moved on and became Maya , with the help of Dr. Sandhya and her son, manager of the hospital, Sharath. There was a heartbreaking twist at the end when her husband from her past, Dr. Narendran appeared.

CastShobana as Maya/ Gauri ; Jayaram as Sharath; Srividya as Dr. Sandhya and Suresh Gopi as Dr.Narendran.

I’ll now dig deep into Padmarajan’s style and understanding of cinema using Innale as an example. Let’s break down this cinema into four aspects : Character’s Pyschology ; Storyline and Editing ; Acting and Detailing ; and, Sound and Music.

Character’s Psychology

When I say character’s psychology, I don’t just mean the main character’s psychology. I’ll talk about human psychology in general with respects to both major and minor characters in Innale . From what I observed, I think Padmarajan sir’s strength was in understanding emotions and behaviours .

 I say this because he not only handled sensitive emotions relating to the subject of amnesia without making it too dramatic but also shown a minor character like a poor native man unable to resist the urge to steal a woman’s jewellery while she lay unconscious by the waterbank, before taking her to a hospital. This scene of the native man is not of any importance to the main plot, but he added it to make the sequence of story seem realistic and smooth , not rushing anything. Had he not shown any natural behaviour from a minor character, it would not feel as real as it did when transitioning to next scene.

We also see in a scene post the accident, the dead bodies covered with sheets lay on the hospital floor , cut to next shot, where Dr. Gafoor trying to save a patient and Dr. Sandhya standing by the hospital window, her hand covered in medical gloves soaked in blood. He kept the frame on close shot in which we see Dr. Sandhya by the window , then camera follows her and zooms in on her face as she slowly turns around, her face looked pale and eyes hinting at her helplessness while she was coming to terms with her own realization of the fact that she has failed to save even one patient, out of all the 37 that was brought.

The main character , Maya , didn’t remember her name. Maya wasn’t her name. When she regained her consciousness and was able to stand on her own feet, she was given the name Maya by Sharath. She responded by saying that the name suited her situation. As soon as he left the room, she thought of poking once again into her memories so that she could learn something about her past. All she could find there was pieces of visuals from delirious dream  she had before regaining her consciousness few days back, other than the memories post the accident. That didn’t help, so she let it go once again.

Every scene was created and handled with utmost care in respect to the character’s emotions and behaviours, without complicating them. Unlike Padmarajan, most film-makers of his time had the tendency to complicate psychological dramas, making the genre prone to melodramatic effect. He made sure that his amnesia patient act like one, not remembering a thing from her past ever again, unlike similar characters of other people’s film where they would suddenly get their memory back just by looking at a tree or something.

Storyline and Editing

Padmarajan’s sense of sequencing the images in scenes are spectacular. There’s not a shot or a scene that will throw you off the track. It was that smooth.

He started the film with a scene where there was a chaos , villagers moving to and fro, in a pitch dark stormy night, helping the people in uniforms carrying the body from the accident spot to the ambulances, parked far away from the remote location . Just like Maya, we too don’t know what happened before the accident. Maya’s past is as much unknown to us as it is to Maya.

Maya’s unconscious body was discovered by the native settler the next morning, separating her from the other unfortunate passengers, making her the special character. From there onwards, we follow the story , empathizing with Maya, following her as she follows the cues her life post the accident offered her. Initially, she clung to her desire to find her past but in vain. No one came to claim her. Time passed by her.

 Her subsequent attachment to Sharath soon overpowered her longing for her past. Just as things started to look normal for her, Dr. Narendran, her husband , who lived in US arrived in India in search of his missing wife. Her past is revealed to us through Narendran’s eyes . It wasn’t much of a past . Her life before her marriage to Narendran was almost as meaningless as having  no past. Her name was Gauri. She and Narendran was married for only a month before the unfortunate accident. So, she wasn’t missing out on much. That’s when our empathy was slowly directed towards Narendran.

 He flew down to Kerala as soon as he found her whereabout to take her away. This is when you’ll be torn between who to emphatise with, at the end. When you think of Maya, you know she has finally learnt to let go of her quest to know her past ; there’s no point in telling her that she had a husband, who she will not remember but will be forced to think of him, leaving her newfound sense of belonging with Sharath, which helped her moving on. However, thinking of Narendran will make you understand that even though Maya remembers nothing from her past due to which she cannot deeply miss it ;  Narendran, who remembers everything ends up being the one suffering. Just like us, he too will feel the void but he being the kinder and wiser soul, decided not to reveal to her who he was and what he came for. He simply left his Gauri so that she could be Sharath’s Maya, an identity that’s a part of her recent past and present , which she created with her new memories. The film ended with him running off in a car , with Maya and Sharath looking towards the direction his car was heading. We see a perplexed Maya and relieved Sharath .  

Each and every shot focused on the emotions of the characters on the frame, which we understand from their behaviours. That’s how Padmarajan created a cinematic universe with each scene revealing something about the character’s intention, impulses, emotions etc. 

Acting and Detailing

First I’ll say that the casting was perfect. Everyone acted as realistically as they could. Out of them all, three actors has attracted my attention more so because of their detailing when it came to acting. I already knew that three of them – Shobana , Srividya and Suresh Gopi are terrific performers , but I have always thought their skills haven’t been properly utilised by majority of the film-makers. Padmarajan is one of the very few directors who had been able to utilize their acting skill to full potential.

There was a scene with Shobana as Maya ,regaining her consciousness completely for the first time , not recognizing anyone or anything. On waking up, she looked confused and kept on saying that she couldn’t recall her name. Her expression clearly portrayed the state of mind Maya was in. It looked as though her mind was blank leading to confusion followed by a mild agitation. It was so natural.

In one of the scene where Maya lay unconscious in the hospital bed, someone from the travel agency was called to identify her. He couldn’t identify yet wouldn’t leave easily once he lay eyes on Maya. This irritated Srividya’s Dr. Sandhya. Srividya, without uttering any dialogue, looked at her wrist watch and nodded her head subtly at Sharath to express her irritation at the fact that this man was wasting her time and Sharath should take him away, now. Perfect detailing once again.

Suresh Gopi’s Narendran , at the last scene, when he arrived at the place Maya was staying,  looked straight at smiling face of his Gauri, thinking that she recognized him until the very next second when she asked Sharath ‘ What took them so long to come ‘? instead of asking anything to Narendran , who she didn’t recognise. Subtle expression in Gopi’s face when his hope of sporting a broader smile was cut short by her question, suggested how his hope was shattered in that moment  he faced the harsh truth .

Sound and Music

I understand that sound and music is something that the technicians and composers deal with. But I have observed that Padmarajan’s cinema always have serene music , something that I like. That’s something I have noticed in his other film also. He surely had some say in the choice of music and sound he used.

This cinema , particularly had a beautiful background music in some scenes post the accident scene. It was a lingering music in the morning scene , which makes you feel dejected and helpless as if you know something worst has happened but you cannot do anything about it. So you go along with the sense of void in you. It gave that kind of feeling. Perfect pick.

That’s PADMARAJAN , for you !

P.S : I know I wrote more about Innale than about Padmarajan . It’s because there’s no Innale without Padmarajan. He was best known for his screenplays. It has always been full of cinematic storyline, dialogues and wonderfully developed characters. He was keen observer of human behaviour which was visible in his cinema.