Reviews

Impressions about the feminine

Madhupal

Madhupal   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Madhupal’s ‘Ente Penn Nottangal’ is a coming-of-age memoir on women who influenced him at various points of his life

Do we assign meanings to our early years, viewing it through a prism coloured by our experiences and acquired over time? In this rewind happens the new ways of seeing, sometimes an introspective gaze, yet at other times confessional, and, possibly, blurring of the fantasy and the real.

Adolescence is the time when boys discover that girls are made differently and there is an irresistible curiosity about the human body. It is the impressions that they gain in these early years that mould their attitudes. Most often these remain tucked away in the recesses of memory.

Digging into the past to bring alive these women and the association is rarely a venture undertaken by many. But in his book Ente Penn Nottangal, actor, writer and filmmaker Madhupal makes no bones of recalling the women to whom he assigns a significant space in impacting his persona.

True, the author is no Desmond Morris of the Manwatching and Intimate Behaviour fame and this is no academic treatment of the subject. It is an intensely personal account, but care has been taken to see that it does not degenerate into a titillating narration.

He sums up his perception of the woman in the introduction: she is the dark continent; no man can see the dreams she dreams, delve into her mind or penetrate the way her eyes do.

The reader easily relates with the author as Madhupal describes the shy boy that he was, stuck for words to converse with girls he would look away from them, much as he would like to gaze at them. He refers to himself as a peeping Tom of sorts because even as he felt squeamish in their presence, getting tongue-tied always, unable to talk to them, be with them or look at them, he was conscious of their presence and watching them.

‘Ente Penn Nottangal’

‘Ente Penn Nottangal’   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

As the book progresses, one can see not just the protagonist growing from a young lad to a teenager to a young man and an adult, but the women who form the subject of the stories too evolve from a domestic retainer to an acquaintance to an accomplished professional. Necessarily, his attitude to woman too gets transformed: she is no more an object of interest in the man-woman perspective; the linkage is more cerebral.

In the 17 episodes of this memoir, the author tells us the stories of women who have crossed his path, some as first-person accounts. He saw women with the eyes of a bashful lad and a man at different ages. The characters range from women who tended to him as a child, friends in the neighbourhood, classmates, colleagues, illiterate, rural women and multi-faceted professionals, acquaintances and the like.

The women of his boyhood and adolescence belonged to books and films. When the heroines of the novels he read and the movies he had seen reappeared in his dreams, they had faces of the real women and vice-versa. For instance, actor Jayabharati on the screen, for the class 10 student Madhupal, was Shanta who lived in his neighbourhood.

Shades of love

The tales of love in its myriad forms — unspoken love, adoration transforming into love, unrequited love, insincere love, same-sex love — flow forth from Madhupal’s pen. Though written in autobiographical style, are they all real? Or, are some the products of his fertile imagination? Your guess is as good as mine.

The men he has etched in some of the stories bear the stereotypical characteristics of an irritable angry father, the father who is a rare presence and has his ‘outings’ when he does come home, the husband who vanishes after the marriage or the father who violates the daughter, all of which in a way influence the eyes that observe or experience these interactions.

Did the illustrations add value to the story? May be not. In more than one place the ‘churidar’ is referred to as the upper garment of the woman, an avoidable slip coming from not just a writer but a filmmaker to boot, and therefore, expected to be aware of the difference.

While the title might draw a reader with the hope of reading some graphic writing, in Ente Penn Nottangal Madhupal strikes a fine balance while recreating these coming-of-age segments.

Ente Penn Nottangal

Madhupal

Mathrubhumi Books

Rs 175

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Printable version | Jul 7, 2020 12:40:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-reviews/review-of-madhupals-ente-penn-nottangal/article28856095.ece

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