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Kadhayattam.

Prologue

While celluloid is a confluence of extraordinary talents and skills, the adulation for one elite group among the articulate thespians – the actors – and consequently the conferral of a certain superstardom and the aura thereof, is an abomination, a misogyny, and a gross indignation.

Well, at least in the eyes of some… a minority group or a fraction. May be just a few.

Ok Perhaps just for me.

But all cultures and languages around the world broadly stated, have them in various altitudes in their cultural fabric including positions in governance that they have gained on its wake: their demeanor often a faux pas and emotions a pretence, as often demonstrated and paraded brazenly on film fare stages, especially the Oscar. Or so it appears, to some.

However, even the most antagonists here, must still concede, that there is a vital element of dexterity in that art of acting, call it gift or bounty – a Midas touch – that which sets apart the men from the boys and the premise of that latter aspect, most ironically, is the subject matter of this essay.

Logs

Let us make a foray into the realms of the tiny tinsel world of the Malayalam Movie, considered as superior by many in terms of its realistic and transfigurative content, fashionably called Mollywood, a secluded yet enriched sphere, on a cocooned strip of land, namely the Gods own country yet a godforsaken place in some other respects.

When coming to the perspectives, Malayalam language-with its unique, cultural undertones, sentimentalism, romanticism, and nostalgic dimensions owing to a certain social milieu, anthology arising out of its connotations to mythology and antiquity, and a historical narrative of oppression, stigma, and unrequited love, has no parallels…

Courted and caressed by the tides on its lustrous stretches of seashores, and pampered by the musical murmurings of the pine trees and the breeze that gushes through the green prairies of the western ghats, hills and valleys,  lake waters, coconut lagoons , small men on canoes, she lies there in her seductive demeanor, indifferent to the countless history and passages of many cultures, conquests and conflicts, of invaders and parades, of many civilisations that landed on its shores, and its famed mercenaries and merchandises: spices, communism and religion among other.

In stark contrast with the mainland on many fronts including topography, and in spite of its outlook of deceptive serenity, the serendipity of its past was to be mired in unmentionable swaths of such practices as untouchability and oppression of certain castes and sects of women who were deprived of a basic right to even cover their modesty,

In religious orientation while it is very uneven to the rest of the country the contrast is not confined to just with the foreign religions that it has embraced but also to the contrast within the labyrinth of the maze of Hindu mythologies. For instance, while Onam, their main festivity is considered an auspicious day of the visit of their adored Mahabali, the deity is an Assura whose name is ominous and his defeat earnestly celebrated in some other corners of the country as a symbol of victory of good over evil, even as the festivities unfolds in their vibrant temples and prairies, filling hope and optimism for the hapless folks toiling on the slushy paddy fields and fishing harbours.

While the mythology accounts for itself with a scope of salvation even for the Asuras on account of their karma, a testimony of the intricacies of these lores, the interwinding tales of the various Vedas, tantras and mantras forms the literary foundation of the state, encompassing within it a multitude of its goddesses and various art forms including the native art form of Kalari payattu, Mohiniyattam and Kathakali.

While Raudra Bhima in pacha and thereby Draupadi has had her revenge extracted and enacted over Dussassana the chuvappu thadi, to a certain extent on the many such atta kadha stages, the same cannot be stated about the wandering souls of Kalliyankattu Neeli and kuriyedathu Thatri, the latter ostracised from her clan,  still bruised following  the smartha vicharam ( an old inquisition), and many nameless souls that has disappeared into the depths of the lakes and dubious dark corners in the woods, departed in discontent ,and their restless, wandering souls has actually not departed but abodes on such surreptitious trees as the yakshi pana and Ezhilam pala, finding solace, taunting us in their whisperings in the dark, if you give an ear to it.

You might want to overlook those ghost whispers, as well as many other superstitions and beliefs that galore around the steppes, as may be prudent of you, as there are very reliable accounts of ethereal experiences, such as that, if you turn around responding to utterances from behind, in certain wrong places and dubious times, it can have eerie and sinister consequences.

If someone were to tell you and can vouchsafe for an incident, say, of how a tamed and adored Tusker can harbour such revenge and exact it on someone even after decades as happened to a great uncle of his, or about a serpent of the dreaded Cobra species that someone had beaten with sticks, bruised and let go somewhere in the grasslands of Ponmudi in the foothills of the western ghats, that came around years after to spite him on his heels while hiking up the trails in Pakshipathalam hills in far north Wayanad, I am not able to validate it, nor am I in a position to entirely dismiss its debauchery.

But those, as well as the historical events such as the Vayalar revolt, the real and infamous naxelism, a certain Sansrit indicia and a myriad of narratives of authoritarianism, oppression, bigotry and prejudice all ornate the literary and lyrical senses of the enlightened populaces.

The Malayalam novel that I vividly remember as having had a profound impact on me was “Agnisakskhi “by Lalithambika Antharjanam.

The story unfurls on the banks of the holy river Ganga, its shores a wandering of the dead and unfulfilled souls – where the character in the story Thankam is pondering over her tormented memories of a departed brother and an inner turmoil about her sister-in-law, in relationships that was waylaid by sheer circumstances, yet of ritualistic compulsions, of despair, despondence and of desolate love.

You will see that tone of despair and melancholy in a lot of Malayalam books, mention must be made of Madhavi Kutty who also found a sublime layer beneath the human sentiments and to the world around her in the nature, in the bickering’s of many birds who came to discourse with her, the various plants and shrubs which were personal to her and her recollection of the time and essence in her works like “Neermathalam pootha kalam”.

Time bestowed with us the great privilege of a doyen in that space among us, the mercurial MT Vasudevan Nair who assimilates all of it – time, nature and emotions – into his works and who was entrusted with the task here of shortlisting 10 of the Malayalam literary work- his heart sunk – I am sure in having to omit some peerless works in the process.

That takes us to the essence of this feature and about a unique experiment named “Kadhayattam”. It has a significant emphasis at showcasing the versatility and range of a certain actor, Mohanlal – much admired and acclaimed as a complete actor – if there can be one such. By complete, it means diverse, good for any seasons and characters, times and beyond.

It might not be fair to all, especially Mammooty – his equal in Malayalam movie.  While equally adored, the measure of acting versatility is perhaps a wee bit tilted towards Mohanlal, I gather, as he has perhaps established that niche for himself.

 While his filmography and his career achievements are not the focus of this dissertation, mention must be made about his artistic brilliance in diverse roles such as Karna on stage, Kathakali artist (Rangam, Vanaprastham) which evoked very high accolade from the experts from the pertinent fields as Kalamandalam Gopi in Kathakali, as per reports in the media. His writing and speeches, while as inspirational and captivating, are mellowed in rich content and artistry.

To sum it up here, he has been endowed with this enviable task and opportunity of showcasing a plethora of characters taken from 10 famous Malayalam literature roles which he aced it, in my assessment with the ease and elegance as would have been expected of him. Manorama and the production crew stands to get lavish praise for this innovative initiative and its successful rollout. It is my privilege to showcase it here with a bit of my own thoughts and commentary and excesses, if you please…

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