How often do you come across a situation where images from your own life, memories you’ve sealed and secured, reminiscences that bring a smile on your face yet leave you teary eyed and tugs your heart coz you know those moments can’t be relived ever?
The opening scene of Manjadikuru convinced me this is what I would be faced with for the rest of the movie. Thiruvilvamala, the location is just a few kilometres away from my paternal hometown. Not drawing similarities from there and events in my childhood seemed impossible through rest of the movie.
Vicky the narrator walks into his ancestral house, confused. His grandfather is lying motionless and the family is assembled to mourn his loss. And I stopped my nostalgic trip through my hometown in this blog right here . What happened after that are bittersweet memories though it leaves me thinking and walking down another trip down the memory lane…
The days following my grandfather’s death were the longest I spent in my paternal hometown. It was the first time that I was exposed to the gruesome reality called death. That I would never see him again… I couldn’t really believe that. When his coffin was lowered into the grave, third from the left, second row of the cemetery ( we just HAD to remember that one of the older cousins instructed), the ladies of the family wailed and howled, my dad stood frozen and the rest I didn’t care. I was wondering what would happen to all those flowers.
At the age of six, you don’t really realize what loss means but you don’t understand the social norms, customs and beliefs that need to be followed at the event of a death. We cousins weren’t allowed to play, no T.V, no making noise… The sober atmosphere made me wish.. ” Grandpa just come back”. For me, he had gone on some long trip visiting someone.
We had to attend mass every single morning following his funeral. And there was some other custom to be followed on the fifth day. Decorating the grave with flowers was the main agenda among us cousins. With too many of them bossing around me, all I had to do was pass flowers or keep them where I was instructed to. No scope for me to voice an opinion on how bad the orange marigold and the magenta vadamalli looked together.
We found a dead rat in the ‘thattumpuram’. The attic equivalent in Malayali homes in Trichur side. We had to climb up the wooden staircase modelled like a ladder to get on top. This was our refuge from the control freaks who’d shoo us away at the hint of a noise. We kids were too bored to mourn all day long. Influenced by the rituals performed by the priest, we had a funeral for the rat too. Incense, candles et all.. and thats when the movie makes strike two.That was the last time, all of us cousins about 10 of us played together.
Soon, the smiling faces disappeared. Subsequent visits started getting uncomfortable. The elders seemed to be behaving strangely. It took me years to understand what was happening and even more years to realize they would never act reasonably and arrive at a solution. At a certain point of time, I had no reason to go back there with grandma deciding to kick the bucket too. I had resolved to NEVER visit the place again.
Fate played a cruel joke. My father was uprooted from his hometown 40 years ago due to employment reasons and 7 mouths to feed. Four decades later, I’m back in the vicinity of the same hometown ( employment reasons here too), where I had resolved never to go back. Time has worked its magic, I have made my peace with that part of the world.
And here’s my two cents on the movie: Ever since I read a blog post by the director a few years ago ( It was one of her earlier posts, couldn’t fish it out when I revisited the blog again), I knew this movie was going to be different. For someone who loves dwell in nostalgia, everything about the movie sounded exciting. And it didn’t disappoint. Intricate details of childhood innocence, perceptions of relationships and people, not knowing the difference between the haves and have nots are captured so beautifully! All I can say is, I witnessed a few moments of my past on screen. Those moments are irreplaceable… yet it leaves you with this warm fuzzy feeling. Thank you Anjali Menon!