Netronmeelanam by K .R. Meera : A Note

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“Netronmeelanam,” is a tough title for even those who understand Malayalam well. Poetic, having imageries of both eyes and a sort of merging,  the word with probable Sanskritic etymology, means the art of drawing eyes, in an environment of soulfulness, onto  murals, paintings or sculptures. Every artist worth her pencil would know that it is  a sacred act – the eyes will be the one to be drawn at  the very last. If they see well, you have caught the spirit truly.

Verily it is said in the Holy Bible: ” The eye is the lamp of the body. So then, if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If the light that is in you is darkness, how great the darkness..”

K.R. Meera’s novel, ” Netronmeelanam”, is like a black and white movie. It plays with blindness and sight, perspective and lack of it, losing eye sight literally, metaphorically, regaining an outlook, changing a way of looking. The novel , if you draw an analogy to a human being, looks deep inside, outside, sideways, closes its eyes and opens them wide.

The writer plays with light in almost all sentences, including the names of her characters:Deepti, Jyoti, Rajani, Prakashan, Shyaman, Abha, Suraj,  Suprabha, Chandramohan, Shivsubramaniya Rao ( I imagined the third eye  of Shiva and the birth of Kartikeya)- there is a smattering of light and dark every where.

The love story is  as complex as an Orhan Pamuk story of obsession; for what is lost forever. This museum of innocence is filled with images of a pregnant Deepti who vanishes inexplicably one night. Everywhere you turn, you encounter her light; ironically not unlike  that of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca- that sinister presence all across Manderlay. Rejany, dark with long plait that resembles a snake, is the living , breathing, passionate woman who falls in love with the blind hero. Unfortunately, he does not have the inner eye to see her light. Some people, Prakashan epitomising that characteristic, are always doomed to thirst for what is lost and will not value those who are present in flesh and blood. The father’s story, the brilliant wordplay notwithstanding, seemed slightly contrived to me. Still, Meera’s love affair with Bengal shows the spark from within this work too.

There were too many jumps onto poetic imagination. Shyaman finding love serendipitously, the story of Jyoti’s Netronmeelanam, the mad woman in the redemption saga, hmmm, I was left a little dissatisfied. Two stories flashed in my mind, in between: somewhere in the past I had read Mukundan’s tale about a corporate top shot,abnegating it all, and choosing to toil as a farmer in some hinterlands. Jyoti’s life and its exaggerated loving simplicity, reminded me of that one. And disturbingly came the memory of that classic  vernacular short story, ( I forget the title )of a father and son returning to the paternal home after the mother committed suicide. What was the name? It tantalises me with its unreachability. Maybe it was Chandramohan’s story that triggered that particular brooding.

Meera’s incomparable  gift  for wordplay and imageries shocks and delights equally:

” The woman tasted of rust.”pg.20

” Beyond the skyscrapers, an ugly cloud afraid of the night, got ready to commit suicide on the branch of the sunset.” Pg 28

“Along the pathway by the side of the canal, to deceive the sightless, the jasmine flower clad night, lay down, her hair loose.” Pg 34

” They found each other like bats, using sound..” Pg 41

” He could see the image of the tree, covered in a black gown, hanging on the sky..”pg 65

I admire the deeply intelligent writing as much as her scintillating prose.

Yes, more of her works are coming my way this week, hopefully.

Let me sketch a face now. I have  to try that sacred ritual- Netronmeelanam…

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Ahalya: Film, Reflections

In the Panchakanya strotram, five women are praised for their qualities of head and heart, to use a cliche.

Ahalya, Tara, Mandodary, Sita and Draupadi are these women- if you know enough about them, you will know why they have been eulogised thus.

Ahalya, given the first mention, as a consolance to the ignominious fate she had to endure- she was turned into a papa- sila, aka stone of sin, for having slept with Indra, the God of the Devas who tricked her in the guise of her husband RIshi- Gautama. Of course, the argument went, had she really been a pure woman, she would have sensed that the ardent lover  in Gautama’s form was not her true spouse, would she not? If you cannot make sense of that logic, well, join the gang. Presumably physical expression of love was not Gautam’s forte and so when the lust ridden Indra went to meet Ahalya, in Gautam’s  body form, come on, says the critic, she being a devoted wife, should have/ could have/ bloody well shouldacoulda/… Eh?  No? Tough luck! Go, check your own morals, sorry amorals…

Well, better intellectuals and souls have debated ad nauseum on the ” purity” of Ahalya. I have compassion for the poor woman. Doomed to be a stone for being a woman. Punished for wanting love. Something resonating with the way Renuka, Parasuram’s mother was punished. Poor lady got her head cut off for being late for the prayer ritual. She had stopped to stare, you see, at a Gandharva and his consorts, indulging in water play- enjoying hedonism with such abandon. On that, later.

I wanted to write on Sujoy Ghosh’s short film ” Ahalya”. Very interesting 14 odd minutes.

Ms .Apte who opens her house door dressed in a silk shift that screams- seduction, seduction , was probably the most obvious- what do they say- red herring in the plot. Yeah, one does read ” Indra Sen” in the cop’s nameplate as he leans  near the camera.  If you have browsed through blogs on the topic, you must have by now, read about the obvious inspirations like the Spanish short film Alma ( simply brilliant!), Satyajit Ray’s  story of ‘Professor Shonku and the mysterious dolls’,about Roald Dahl’s award winning horror story ” The Land Lady” et al. (I was wondering if Hitchcock  was inspired to do Psycho from that one too, after reading the tale:)

Watch Ahalya at peace. Then sit back and ruminate. Or else, much better, laugh out at the cleverness of the director.  Turning into stone  has never been more interesting.

I am, in the meanwhile, wondering on the limitless possibilities of our epics to be the foundation of many a short film, loosely inspired by vernacular and foreign classics.

A Conan Doyle inspired- c’mon very generously- Speckled band- and Takshaka’s bite and  the Pareekshit tragedy. How does a worm turn after all, eh? It can be woven with the tale of Somerset Maugham – there is that  Malayan archipelago story about the worm in the head causing hallucinations- in the battle between men over a woman.

So you have a worm, a serpent,  an eponymous detective, a legend,  a writer, a woman, two men.

Name of film: Pareekshit! Howzzat?

Whoa- I am taking a break from mixing too many ingredients in the cauldron.Cannot afford for anyone to think that the writer is stoned, eh?

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Never Be Pricey

I am a fan of Anuja Chauhan.

This young lady, who looks like she is fifteen in her book snap shots, mother of three teenagers,previous Senior VP of a top Ad agency, writer of columns and brilliant books, is down to earth and very witty.(Btw, the frothy, tempting, Yeh Dil Maange More was her own line!)

But her latest book, ‘The house that BJ built, ‘ disappointed me.

When I  read her debut novel,  Zoya Factor, I was surprised at  her  bubbly writing , her deep knowledge of the field (cricket and advertising) and the Hindi-English mad cap jokes, perfect understanding of the typical Indian society (low/middle/high/whatever), deeper understanding of dresses, man woman crushes, little children, assorted aunts (even Wodehouse might not have captured aunts so brilliantly!), fathers, sisters, etc etc.. It was sheer brilliance.

By the time she ventured into Battle for Bittora (Based on Indian elections, a melange of all things goofy and great. She is also the D-I-L of veteran politician Margaret Alvaji), I found myself laughing aloud at her perspicacity. Then came “Those Pricey Thakur Girls”, a description of growing up in a family of pretty sisters and Doordarshan Chitrahaar era.

All the novels were peppered by light humour, salted by divine wisdom of the local swear words (sprinkled very subtly), and lots of passionate love. I recommended all of her books to my teenager, who became an ardent fan too, like her mom.

We both eagerly awaited the sequel of Thakur  Girls. But something happened, which gave a bitter taste to that reading experience.Too many swear words of the worst kind!  A tendency to go overboard with the descriptions of female anatomy! Too much slickness a la Uriah Heep. (Unctuousness, I think , is the word Dickens used ). Also, I remembered the Harry Potter series,  each growing bigger and bigger, with lesser and lesser substance. Brevity, apparently was an art, that  was first chewed up and later spat out  by the monsters of marketing and seekers of  popularity, worldwide.

For the first time, I hesitated while offering Anuja’s book to my daughter. We did laugh at the occasional flashes of brilliant word play; but she agreed too- the writer was trying too desperately to impress. Why would there be tonnes of swear words in every page? Hindi, English, mixed? Too much of anything, soon bores and numbs . Even the infallible Amrit,  if  consumed in overwhelming proportions,  would turn poisonous. At least that’s how the vernacular proverb goes. “The House That BJ Built” unfortunately, suffers from that failing.

Anuja knows the world of clothes, films, family property disputes and romance perfectly well. But her innocent writing charm, sweet romantic descriptions, the elegance and laugh aloud humour of her earlier books were starkly missing  from this one.As an advertising professional, she should know it all too well: Customers are the Kings. Or Queens.

My dear Anuja(ji), not all the marketing figures can make up for the devotion of your readers. Always keep your basic customer base as your priority. If you scandalize them with over eagerness to shock and impress, they will get disappointed.We are your simple fans, you see. We are the ones who will spent hard earned money for enjoying your wonderful tales.  (Because, we  can exactly recollect the pangs and jubilations.) The moment we feel, as if you are too uppity and too worldly wise, we will stop being impressed.

Give us today, our daily dal, my dear. We will manage without lead infested instant noodles.

Just keep being you. Chuck out the marketing master plan. And yes, the next book you write, keep it simple and sweet. May that one be as entrancing as that street urchin grin of Anuja Chauhan , caught in camera by her own daughter.

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