Saturday, 25 August 2018

Merku Thodarchi Malai: More than just a movie

An outsider like Logu for whom Thevaaram hamlet was ready to offer a livelihood and make him a successful entrepreneur, ironically employs Rangasamy who is a local. And what connects their lives is this gigantic Western Ghats, the living fount of innumerable resources from, rains and cardamom to wind and electricity. Filmmaker Lenin Bharathi's Merku Thodarchi Malai is a documentation of such contradictions bound in the ecosystem of the mountain range.

We can see how this rocky peak has emotionally synced-up with the demographics of its foothills and settlements on its cliffs. When Rangasamy takes an outlander through his daily route over the hills, he asks him to carry a piece of rock until 'Saathan Medu'. And, he has a deeply soppy reason for that.

In a scene, there is a friendly quarrel happening between two gaffers in the hamlet. During the conversation, one of them mocks at the other calling 'physically weak', for which he replies 'go ask your sister about my strength', that comes out with subtlety. In this village, no one is a stranger to each other. A wedlock of a pair is decided by Adivaaram Paakiyam who is distantly related, but closely acquainted to the couple. That's how Thevaram is characterised.

This attribution of the community underpins the plot and its conflicts. For an instance, a villager is not ready to revenge or take down his friend, who, in no time ruins the earnings of all his life. Instead, he cries along with his friend. It is all because none in the community is evil. Going by its subtext, this is how a society should be.

After a long time, Ilayaraaja has been brought down to his own soil of Pannaipuram, and the end product needs no words to express. But, the mastery of this musical legend is experienced every time when his sounds blend with the winds on screen. The first music we hear evolves only 10 minutes after the movie starts - rightly during the first appearance of the ghats.

So far in cinema, we have heard the sound of winds, but Theni Easwar has visually captured it, which is spell bounding. Whenever he reframes, zooms in and out the camera, we see it speaking a different story. Comparing the first and last scenes, when Rangasamy is happy with rainwater face washes with the last scene where he sleeps around government's freebies - a table fan and television, it is Theni Easwar who expressed Lenin's emotions.

The community seems to be very happy until their bond with the Western Ghats sees the predominance of capitalism. And, here is where Communism takes a comfort space in the plot. We see two extremes of Communism - agitative and repulsive and two kinds of Communists - good and greedy.

However, Lenin leaves it to us to decide at this point of his narration. On the whole, his Merku Thodarchi Malai starts off in the silence of a heavy rain and ends in the noise of breeze.

- Santhosh Mathevan,
Chennai, August 25, 2018.

A part or complete version of this review by Santhosh Mathevan has appeared in This viewer's note is completely based on the perceptions of Santhosh Mathevan alone. This does not reflect the views of two or more people or a community. Queries and criticism shall be addressed to the writer only.