TV Chandran’s latest, “Bhoomi Malayalam” [now in theatres] is a relishing movie, which as per the director, tries to take Malayalam cinema and its audience at least an inch forward – and this time you have to give it to him. TV Chandran (assisted by his son, and my senior in school –Yadu), webs a unique story telling technique that flows smoothly through the lives of seven diverse women in different parts of Kerala at different points in time (1948 – Present). The movie with a run-time of 90 minutes, is one of the shortest Malayalam feature films I’ve seen, and the sheer diversity of portrayals and number of issues dwelled upon makes it a very fast and exciting movie. (Exciting to the extent that Ladoo and I ran back throwing our half smoked anbumaniramdosses after the short interval)
Bhoomi Malayalam – is a movie made strictly for malayalis, and I doubt whether this film will speak intensely to any one else. (yeah there were 10 malayalis in Sree yesterday J , Sathyan selling “the family” with Bhagyadevatha had a full-house next door in Kairali). The movie, though without a pattern, and without the burden of solving every issue in 90 minutes (which many a movie do), turns our attention towards a diverse set of issues ranging from treasury shutdown in Trivandrum to the ubiquitous career-family questions to the endosulfan tragedy in Kasaragod. Though some of these issues are period (endosulfan and treasury shutdown is 2001, not 2009), this movie can serve as a reminder in later years.
The story deals with 7 women, and their private fears, tragedies and disappointments. Yes it is a movie centered on women, but not exclusively on women’s isssues but on a diverse set of issues where women find themselves at the receiving end. The movie starts in Trivandrum where a case of police atrocity leaves a woman without her brother, then the movie shifts to Kannur where Nirmala (Samvrutha in one of her significant roles) loses a younger brother to political violence, then to Kottayam where an affluent industrialist’s daughter gets influenced by communist literature from the late 40s and sees the tyrannical bourgeoisie in her own father, and then still within the latex belt we see a struggling athlete fighting both poverty (around the sounds of farmer suicides) and prejudice. We come to know about most of the above stories through the eyes of Fausiya (Padmapriya) who is a television reporter. Fausiya fights her own demons in conservative in-laws and an out of tune husband. The last two stories are from 1948 – about a revolutionary’s wife and her fears, and an often repeated story of a girl pushed into quick sand during an attempted rape.
The movie does end on a positive message for some of the protagonists (mind you there are 7 of them). They assert themselves, but surely around the sounds of families breaking and couples separating. Pretty much the same sad solutions of yester years (even Chandran’s Alicinte Anweshanam and K G George’s Aadhaminte Variyellu from the 80s had similar issues and solutions), but yeah, the fact that western Europe just crossed the threshold of more than 50% single mothers, we indeed have some sad ground to cover.
Bhoomi Malayalam is good, fast, at times a little too ‘painkili’ emotional(that would be there, frickin women! ), but highly watchable. It is not much of a thought provoking movie, but one those ‘reminding’ movies which reminds us of things. Then, atleast the ten people who watched “Bhoomi Malayalam” wouldn’t go home complaining about the sorry state of Malayalam cinema.