I thought I’d do a series on some well-loved scenes from some of the movies I’ve watched so many times that I’ve lost count of the number. I’m at my laziest and happiest when watching certain movies again and again. It gives me a feeling similar to that of curling up on a warm unmade bed that I’ve slept in earlier. The characters and their fates are familiar and one is not in for any nasty stomach knotting surprises. And if I’ve something crunchy and spicy to munch on, it’s paradise.
I confess to being fiercely regional and parochial when it comes to movies. Malayalam movies, I feel, are the best in the world. No offence meant.
Let me start with ‘Manichitrathazhu’. I must have watched it a zillion times. Yet each time it never fails to hook me. Be it the lovely Shobana, the insanely funny Innocent with his threat to spear the ‘kaarnor’ at the tip of his umbrella or the phenomenally talented Mohanlal, it is a treat to watch. Hang rationality; hang the critical thinking mind.
Now I’m faced with a dilemma. There are so many scenes in this film that I love that I find it impossible to choose only one. So I’m going to settle for two.
Did You Come to See Me Even Once?
The scene which first leaps to view in my mind’s eye is the climax dance by Shobana. Wow! What wouldn’t one give to be able to dance like that? Such grace and poise. I especially love her pirouettes on the knee. Not just that. Those scenes were easy to overdo as is evident in the different remakes. But Shobana carries it off with characteristic brilliance. The brilliance is evident as she dances alternately as Ganga possessed by Nagavalli and as Nagavalli herself. Even when she dances as the possessed Ganga she doesn’t overdo it. Ganga is possessed and she is not a dancer. Nagavalli who possesses her is. Both these aspects are made clear in the way Shobana emotes and dances. And the dance is still graceful both as Ganga and as Nagavalli. That’s exceptional to say the least. Watch the scene here on You Tube
Won’t You Let Me Go?
The next scene is purportedly the one that won her the National Film Award for the Best Actress. It is the scene in which she realizes that there is something the matter with her. When prevented by her husband from going out, Ganga reacts and the ferocious Nagavalli within her surfaces. This transformation enacted by Shobana is nothing short of magical. When her husband calls out her name, she turns back into Ganga but with the realisation that she has been someone else for a few moments. This transformation too is a fine piece of acting. It is not even a shade overdone. Here is the scene for you.
I feel there is a lot that the character of Ganga Nakulan suppresses. Though her husband is shown as being very loving, what about Ganga’s interest in archaeology in which she is supposed to have done some research? She seems to have traded it for the bliss of being Ganga Nakulan the poetry loving homemaker.
The psychiatrist Sunny after ‘treating’ her is keen to establish that she is Ganga Nakulan and not just plain Ganga. Sunny also reassures her that her psychiatric illness will never resurface again. Why not? Since nothing seems to have been done for Ganga the person she was before she became Ganga Nakulan. What about the feelings of abandonment and loneliness that Sunny discovered she suffered from during her childhood? And about the eternal longing for a loving heart to turn up? The trauma of being transplanted to a strange city leaving her roots behind also seems to have affected Ganga. But these issues are not seen as being addressed.
Nagavalli and Us
A closing note. Don’t all of us women have a Nagavalli inside us? Wouldn’t we like to dance with abandon, love with passion and take sweet revenge on those who have wronged us? I think the film should be re-watched as one on female anger, the anger that all women learn to suppress as part of the ‘adjustment’ that they undergo in marital life, the anger that surfaces in myriad ways sometimes as psychosomatic disorders, or obsessions or compulsions or depression but most often as plain simple bitterness.
Sign up to receive Pen Page, my email newsletter directly into your inbox. It usually has a note from me, blog excerpts and my take on what I’ve been reading. Occasionally I send out a piece of flash fiction. You may unsubscribe any time. Here are other sections of my blog. Please click to read: Jottings, Personal Essay and Folklore. Please share on: Facebook Instagram Twitter