Movie Review – Elippathayam

Posted: July 16, 2013 in Movie Reviews, Movie Reviews, Reviews
Tags: ,

I don’t know why it took me five years to watch my first Malayalam film in spite of knowing how famous Adoor Gopalakrihnan’s was and also vaguely knowing the language. I was in fact amazed that I could spot mistakes in the subtitles. I don’t know how I got well so well versed in the language. I used to tell people around me that one could understand any language if you listen to it keenly. They used to laugh at me. Even I don’t know why I used to say that but I have a feeling that one definitely can understand a language through keen observation. That’s why even I wanted to travel alone to a place where I absolutely don’t know the language.

elippathayam

Before I talk about the movie let me tell you what Adoor has to say about the movie. The movie is about feudal system. A fact well known by many people. In fact it is recognized worldwide like a propaganda movie against feudal system. Other than this there were things which I hadn’t noticed. I would have been happy to find out these but its okay. The three sisters majorly wear colors which symbolizes their persona. The eldest sister wears green which indicates earthiness, practicality and intelligence. For me she is the most practical woman in the movie. She coming to her home and being demanding wasn’t a shock at all for me. I was rather shocked by the fact that how the other sisters lived in the house for such a long time. The eldest sister being married goes out of the rat trap first.

The second one, Rajamma, the true heroine of the movie whom every one of us love wears blue to show her gentleness. She is so kind that it becomes irritating after a point. Be it warming the slightly below warm water to the correct level for her brother or when writhing in pain with stomach ache but with the first mention of her name she gets more worried about her brothers coffee than her suffering. It’s so annoying to see such a woman. Even such a woman raises her voice once when the younger sister runs away from home. And that’s the only shock her brother shows in an otherwise blatant life, where all the shock she gets is when he’s woken up from his sleep. Quite obviously her escape from rat’s trap is through her illness/death.

The third sister Sridevi, the most beautiful of the lot and an exact example of why I love Malayali girls wears Red throughout to symbolize revolt, youth and life. During the initial phase of the movie she takes a rat trap from the shelf and dusts it. Those five minutes show how brilliant an actor she is. Her expressions were perfect. She makes us so glued to the scene by increasing the curiosity through her expressions. The way she makes face while removing the cobwebs makes us ewww too. Her release from the rat trap is through her own decision. She runs away from the family. Her brother as usual doesn’t take any move to warn her sister after she reads a love letter. I thought the love letter was to her imaginary boy friend. I don’t know how much of it is true. She is the one who drowns the three rats that are caught in the rat trap and she is the one who releases herself.

According to Adoor Gopalakrishnan there are six escapes or releases in the movie. The above said three sisters release from the rat trap and the three times the rat gets trapped in the rat trap. He also said that each had their own way of protesting even though only Unni’s protest is being made obvious because he’s such a self indulgent man. Anyone who watches this movie would hate him to the core, especially ladies. I thought Gopalakrishnan made a movie about chauvinism but I was wrong. There were more layers to it. So when you see this guy lovingly caressing his body with oil your hatred grows by leaps and bounds. The elder sister protests quite openly saying that her brother is not doing any work and not sharing his wealth. Rajamma is the one who protests through her silence. The boiling water scene is a perfect example for that. The youngest one too protests openly by not helping the eldest sister and by running away from home.

That pretty much sums up everything but throughout the movie I thought it’s a movie about Rajamma. The way Unni calls her gives you creep. By sitting idle in the easy chair and letting the cow graze through he calls Rajamme in a nasal tone only to evoke anger but on the other hand Rajamma considers it her duty to work for his brother. She’s a down to earth soul who gets happy even with the mention of marrying a widower but such a poor soul even that doesn’t happen to her. A woman who appears to be one with wrong intentions helps her out of the trap towards her climax. I thought that she is the only one who gets trapped in rat trap but that wasn’t true, everyone gets trapped in the terrible rat trap. The careful selection of a secluded Kerala roof house is a perfect setting to the movie. Gopalakrishnan had to hunt for this perfect place through weeks but his hunt is perfect as it gives the perfect feel to the film.

Out of all the things one thing I didn’t understand is the climax. Once they drown him in the same pool where the rats are drowned he comes out from the pool. Is it he himself or his immortal soul? Well I don’t wish to find an answer. Why think about the destination when the journey itself is so fascinating. Gopalakrishan while trying to explain that he didn’t want to give a definite conclusion which is the norm, certainly said one of the best quotes, “artists necessarily don’t have to know answer to everything, they just have better perspective.” How true!

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Comments
  1. PRADIP BISWAS says:

    PRADIP BISWAS
    film scholar, author
    Faculty, Film Studies, Film Institutes/University
    Indian Express Newspapers
    Member Federation International de la Presse Cinematographique (FIPRESCI) Munich
    Board Member Selection Committee, SRFTI, Kolkata Govt. of India
    Film Script Committee Member NFDC, Govt. of India
    CBFC Member, Govt. of India
    Jury Member International Film Festival of India, IFFI, India, FIFF, Swiss, Pusan, Korea. MAMI, Mumbai, IFFK,Kerala, Varna, Bulgaria
    Member Advisory Board Cine Central Calcutta
    Co-Ordinator International Film Festivals

    Elippathayan is a departure work by Adoor by any analogy. The showcase of gradual degeneration of feudalism is so tautly placed that it makes the path slippery for film buffs to grasp the reality. Unni with stripe shirt parades “stress, tension and uncertainty”. Our audiience has to read a lot of Adoor to get the whole drift of the director who is masterclass. His films on the whole reflect undiluted state of truth of illusion and reality with mastery. Addor is the filmmaker of India who has never repeated subjects and made compromise to make his kind of films. An imposition is treated by as a trash and ignoble. Elipatthayan, winner of Southerland award of BFI, after the great Ray, is pointer. His film are ever to stay alive despite drastic change in film-making technology. He is the great of greats.

    • Vikram M N says:

      First of all thank you Pradip for writing in. Yes i accept that i’ve to read a lot of him to understand him better but this movie was amazing for me just as an art lover.

  2. PRADIP BISWAS says:

    THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS,
    New Delhi
    ADOOR GOPALAKRISHNAN: A DIRECTOR WITH A VISION.
    BY PRADIP BISWAS

    ADOOR GOPALAKRISHNAN, A SOLID PRODUCT OF FILM SOCIETY, SEEMS TO HAVE MADE KERALA RICH AND HUGELY PROUD BY HIS OFTEN CLASSIC AND MOST REALISTIC FILMS IN THE COUNTRY. HE HAS MADE 12 FILM IN A SPAN OF 50 YEARS WHICH HAS A RESEMBALANCE WITH THAT OF FRENCH MAESTRO REOBERT BRESSON WHO DURING HIS LIFE-TIME ONLY EIGHT FILMS, ALL EXCEPTIONAL IN NATURE AND TREATMENT. ADOOR MAKES A STRONG RALLYING POINT WITH BRESSON WHOSE FILMS ARE MANIFESTATIONS OF THE STATE OF AFFAIRS RELATING TO HIS TIME, SPACE AND SOCIO-POLITICAL REALITY.

    MRINAL SEN HAILED ADOOR: “THE MOST ORIGINAL INDIAN FILMMAKER AND WHO HAS NEVER REPEATED HIS SUBJECTS IN HIS FILMS.” RIGHT FROM FILM “SWAYAMBHARAM” TO ONCE AGAIN HAVE APPEARED TO HAVE SHOWN VARIOUS TRAITS, CHARACTERS, CONTOURS, SUBJECTIVITY AND ONTOLOGICAL TENSION OF HIS TIMES. HIS FILMS CLEARLY DISPLAY THAT THEY DO NOT COPY REALITY BUT OFTEN SURPASSED IT FOR ARTISTIC DEMANDS. IN SOME OF HIS FILMS CLASSICISM IS APPARENT AND IMPRESSED THE MAJOR FILM BUFFS WITH AWE AND WONDER. HIS FILM SUCH AS KODIETTOM, MUKHOMUKHOM, ANANTRAM, VIDEAN, MATHILUKUL ETC ARE PARTS OF THIS EXERCISE. THEY GO BEYOND TODAY TO BE RELEVANT TOMORROW. AND THIS IS GREAT, GREAT IN ALL RESPECTS. THESE ARE TIMELESS WORKS.

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