Sunday, August 1, 2010
Literature, cinema et al are often regarded as a mirror to society, as a forum where issues and trends are depicted, in a supposedly imaginary set up, so that it rightly becomes infotainment. However, not all movie makers embed social issues in their stories, but the few who do so, do it rather effectively -- Sathyan Anthikad being one among them, now joined by Rosshan Andrews with his Ividam Swargamanu.
If in his debut venture Notebook, Andrews dealt with confused teenage, ambitions and relationships, Udayananu Tharam was a meta-cinema that gave a glimpse into the machinery called cinema, the people who work it,their egos and struggles, failures and successes. In Ividam Swargamanu, he addresses a cause that is at once very serious but widely prevalent in God's own country. He makes a strong statement against the rampant trend of converting arable lands to make way for high rises. The movie also seeks to emphasize the fact that crass consumerism that is slowly seeping into the countryside has led to drastic erosions not only in the relationship between man and man, but also between man and land.
Set in the sylvan Kodanadu, Mathews's farm is unanimously declared a "Swargam" by the villagers, the parish priest and the media crew of a news channel who come to do a feature on a poetess'teaching career, (Mathews happens to be the said teacher's student, who was once scolded by the same teacher because he wanted to be a farmer). Apparently he took up farming to save his father from debts and to recover land area that the finance company took away. Things go pretty smooth till a land grabber, Aluva Chandy sets his eyes on this heavenly piece of land, for someone to build a private resort at the riverside. What follows next is the epic battle between a common man and the entire government system, a battle that exposes a whole different sub-system driven by greed and a vast network of government servants willing to do anything at the mention of "Gandhi" (though not in a strictly patriotic sense, but used as a synonym for corruption loot), in which the former triumphs rather emphatically.
Mathews could reach his fight to a successful conclusion only because he had the resources and right kind of contacts to see him through. Such a possibility is out of bounds for the poor farmer of Kerala or the illiterate tribal, who can only resort to suicide in the face of utter indifference from those who are supposed to protect their rights. Andrews, however, seems to convey the idea that, no matter how malignant the system is, the judiciary continues to mete out justice. But then, as a lawyer says in another movie, there is only one law, with which, sometimes, the accused is saved and the defended is convicted !
Another aspect of the society that Andrews brings into his frame is that of the changing attitudes of the rustic community. Nattinpuram no longer seems to be nanmakalal samrudham. The Kodanadu folks seem to belie the much celebrated rustic unity and co-operative camaraderie, rarely seen among city-zens. The prospect of a township and the resultant job and business opportunities lure them away from the plight of a farmer who is merely trying to keep what legally belongs to him. At the same time, the stereotypical ignorance of the villagers is reinforced through the fact that the excitement about a five-star hotel and shopping mall seem to cloud their rationality so much so that they don't bother to enquire further into the township promises made by the infamous land-grabber.
As the credits roll up, one feels the satisfaction of having watched a good film. Andrews proves that entertainment lies not in songs and dances, but can be found in touching scenes, dialogues and even in a good location. Mohanlal excells as always in the role of a common man; Thilakan, Sreenivasan, Lakshmi Rai, Priyanka, Lakshmi Gopalaswami all perfectly fit into the plot that James Albert has woven with ease. Lalu Alex is par excellence as Aluva Chandy (and probably the name will stick, like Dimdi Mathai)!
Mathews's problem might have come to a happy conclusion -- sadly, it happens only in cinema ! Things are seldom so easy for the common man who leaves the theater feeling happy in one man's victory over the system; his problems remain the same, and he will often be forced to give bribes to get things done. Rarely can one make things happen like Mathews could. After all, cinema is a kind of willing suspension of disbelief !
Kerala, tourist destination that it is, might have retained the tag of being God's Own Country; pakshe ividam sarikum swargamano???