When a film director speaks the language of success in his first movie, hype and expectations for his second film increase exponentially. So it is with Madhupal’s feature film Ozhimuri, which has moved into its post-production phase.
Set in places such as Thuckalay, Marthandam, Thiruvattar, Thengapattanam and Colachel in Kanyakumari district, which was once part of erstwhile Travancore, Ozhimuri, is at once an emotional roller coaster as well as the tale of a community searching for an identity of its own. Ozhimuri, which means document of separation, adapted from Uravidangal, a life sketch by Jeyamohan, is about how multiple dimensions of a separation – economic, societal, psychological and political – affect the people involved in it. The movie also focusses on the concerns and lives of the Malayalis in Kanyakumari district, their efforts to establish their identity and space in a new social and political montage.
The film has been written by award-winning Kollywood scenarist and writer Jeyamohan, his first in Malayalam. He is the scenarist of hits such as Naan Kadavul and Angadi Theru. He has also written Kadal, the latest Mani Ratnam film.
A resident of Parvathipuram in Kanyakumari district, Jeyamohan, a Malayali who is at home in Tamil and Malayalam, narrates with extraordinary felicity the trauma of a middle-aged couple who decides to file for a divorce against the backdrop of an agrarian and matrilineal society in rapid transition. “Jeyamohan comes from those parts and so it was not a difficult task for him to capture the feel of the place and people. We have been friends for a long time and I am an avid reader of his stories and his column in the vernacular monthly Bhashaposhini. This story attracted me with its gritty yet sensitive tale of a community trying to adapt to change,” says Madhupal.
“It is a multi-layered narrative that has a wide canvas but instead of attempting to cram several issues into the film, I have let the characters’ lives narrate the story of the place and its people. It is about relationships – between father and son, mother and son, husband and wife, wife and mother-in-law, and so on. Each relationship has its own dynamics that takes the narrative forward,” says the director, adding that the story happened in a society that had a very strong matrilineal set-up, reigned over by tough women.
He says that owing to the socio-economic features of the region it is now riddled with litigation over land. “There are like seven or eight courts within a small region and all these are filled with litigants, mostly fighting for ancestral property. Some of these cases have been going on for generations,” he adds.
A sneak look at some of the scenes of the film has you yearning for more as the lead characters led by actor-director Lal come up with a superlative performance. Lal’s portrayal of a troubled cop with a guilty conscience in Thalappavu, Madhupal’s first feature film, had fetched him the Kerala State Film Award for the Best Actor. So, all eyes will be on Thanu Pillai, Lal’s character in the film.
Shwetha Menon (Thiruvattar Thegumpura Veettil Kali Pillai), Mallika (Meeenakshi Pillai), Asif Ali (Sivan Pillai alias Saratchandran) and Bhavana play key characters in the film that has the protagonists speak a dialect that is peculiar to the region in which the story is set. “That was one of the most difficult tasks in the film. Jeyamohan was there during the shooting to help us with our diction and lip movement. The society there is so complex that each community and caste has different ways of using certain words and has specific expressions for addressing people. We had to make sure all that was on the dot,” explains Madhupal.
Shwetha plays Lal’s mother, while Mallika plays his wife and Asif Ali appears as their son. In addition to professional actors of Mollywood, the director depended on a number of locals and actors such as Kochu Preman and Nandulal, to lent authenticity to the movie. Azhagappan cranks the camera for the film.
Two songs, one of them written by Jeyamohan, a poignant number that captures the soul of the bilingual region, have been scored by Bijibal.