Munnamidam aka ‘ The Third Space’, is a short film produced by actor Jayasurya, starring Rachana Narayankutty and RJShaan. It deals with seventeen minutes of an intimate encounter of a married housewife with a 13 year old daughter and a recently divorced Facebook friend- to put it succinctly. The film is drenched with rain, violin, sindhoor conspicuously spread all over the sensuous lady’s forehead, her desires and her decisions. The movie has been garnering many rare reviews and awards even as I type this note. And it has been uploaded in YouTube.
1. Why is there a deep necessity even today, in Indian film making, to justify seemingly ‘ unacceptable/ punishable/ wayward’ behaviour in women with a root cause ? Here, the woman’s spouse is openly exploring his third space. Consequently, she is reaching out too. See, it is all okay.
Sorry, I do not see. Why on earth give such an explanation, to explore third dimensions? Leave it to your viewer-please do not underestimate our sensitivities.
Ever seen Bridges of Madison County? A married Meryl Streep romances a passing photographer, lyrical poetry of Yeats accompanying the affair, for less than a week. The need/ justification/ explanation for third space, is left to the viewer. The root, as I could understand, was that both understood Yeats in that desolation. Autumn leaves and Nat King Cole will bring that alive anytime to the viewer.
In the Om Puri and Rekha flick ‘Aastha’, the viewer is left with a choice to make his/her own conclusion. Did Rekha succumb to the call of money or was it an innate tendency to walk the fire?
Next time around, leave out the explanation. If they explore any space, fourth or fifth space included, let your hero or heroine take the responsibility consciously. There is no strength in blaming another’s action for your own choices in life; as I view it.
2. I wonder on the film maker’s psychology of highlighting the’marital symbols’ – a purplish red sindhoor drenching her forehead, so conspicuously, as the lady gets cosy in her obviously planned encounter with her friend! I saw the mangalsutra dangling too , even as she admits to love and desire.In Aastha too, Rekha had copious amounts of sindhoor over her hair parting, even as the haunting ‘ Panaah’ song was being rendered. Both heroines, Rekha in the 80s movie and Rachana in the present age movie, wear traditional sari, with matching jewellery. I do not remember if Rekha wore silver anklets that jingled as she walked.
Symbols have powerful messages within- subtle or obvious.
Somewhere, someone took a conscious decision of getting this heroine ( who uses Facebook, whatsapp and state of art mobiles) to be bedecked in sari, sindhoor and shimmering , jingling anklets. By the way, the sari was coloured red. Like her bindi and sindhoor.
Silvery, jingling anklets around her ankles bring to mind Savitry – the eponymous heroine who walked behind Yama, seeking her spouse’s life back. At the sound of her delicate footstep, the Lord of Death had to stop.
Lakshman Rekhas were obviously spread all over the place.
So was the film maker showcasing the story of an innocent, traditional housewife and mother getting seduced by new age calls to sin? Was it trying to show us the victory of tradition in her sanctimonious refusal to indulge physically, though every other sanctity has been long shattered? That what matters is abstinence, the reining in of the sinning body, and the rest can be brushed under the beautiful carpets above which rocking chairs rock on?
So who was true at the end of it all?
The woman who was having a full fledged affair, who dressed up for her lover, who tries to attend phone calls like a devoted wife, who claims to love her spouse, and who discovers her ‘ strength’ at the last minute? The one who goes behind her angrily retreating lover, tempting him saying that he should have endured in his persistence for her love, just for another minute? Who to the tunes of romantic violin and flute, gives advice to her daughter telephonically,soon after, on what is her true strength?
( Was there not a movie called Meghamalhar that also expostulated about sacrifice?)
The man who came with the clear intention like a cat after midnight, only this was early afternoon, who could frankly not understand why the lady was acting like the rain – playing both hot and cold. Who tells her while leaving, that in his belief, an indulged moment is better than a wasted one?
The unseen third presence, denounced viciously by both protagonists in the movie, making his unwanted presence very vocal, through regularly monitoring phone calls?
Or the next generation child, wondering on her mother’s strength?
I think of Zorba the Greek. Both the wonderful novel and the classic film. Zorba, as alive as the Blue green Aegean Sea!
The honest to earth living and sinning.
The simple truth of being true to one’s own self!
Of how he taught the scared hero to acknowledge his desire for the beautiful forbidden one.
In Madhavi Kutty’s story, an old woman cries aloud on her death bed for a silky green blouse and golden jewellery that she was never allowed to wear! It had been the freedom fighting days, espousing simplicity. The woman inside her, starved of sensual beauty, in the dying mad frenzy, forgets all earthly rebukes and cries out for her birthright! I need my beautiful silk and gold – before I die!!Probably I have never encountered a more brilliant depiction of a woman’s desires strangulated by society!
Among all the depictions of Madame Bovarys and Anna Kareninas, flirting tragically with death along with the forbidden third space, the lessons were clear enough. Certain things will not change in society’s perspective-Russia or Italy or Timbucktoo.
But then, there was the tantalisingly beautiful Chinese film, ” In the mood for love.” A third space of whispering yearnings , far away from the madding crowd.
Certain truths, like certain lies, are crystal clear to the human eyes of the viewer.
Either you love, or you do not.
Either you face the truth, or you do not.
Dumbing down truth, courage, desires is definitely not the manifestation of strength of character.
Something inside me tells, that if the film were to show one shot of the next day, nothing would have changed.The woman would continue to live in her pretty Doll’s House, Ibsen would agree, loving another. The unseen master of the house would keep checking periodically, her presence, whenever he gets ‘time ‘ from close encounters of the third kind. The freewheeling cat shall roam free, with a probability to return home to roost. And probably licks his whiskers , happily, after learning the art of persistence.The next generation grows up imbibing some weird moral philosophy of giving up what you truly want, and not having the courage to face your own self.
Apparently the film is based on a real life tale that the writer( also the hero) heard from a friend. Yes, truth can be stranger than fiction. Balachandran Chullikkad had written many such short memoirs in his Chidambaram Smarana compilation.
‘ Above all, to thine own self be true- thou cannot then be false to any one.’
Love is after all a four letter word.
And I get my feedback.
” Her loyalty was towards her daughter. Not towards the two men.She wanted to be a good mother and role model for the child. That is the significance of the daughter’s call. The child is the centre of her life. Others are transient wishes which come and go as far as she is concerned. It is easy to be a lover. But rarely do we have true friendship. Blessed are those who can see the grandeur of the Universe in their beloved.”
I bow to that wisdom. With gratitude and love and humility.