Exploring marooned selves

P.A. Manu’s ' Munroe Thuruthu' won this year’s Aravindan Puraskaram for the best debut filmmaker and the John Abraham Award for the best film.

Published - March 03, 2016 12:43 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Alencier and Indrans in a still from 'Munroe Thuruthu'

Alencier and Indrans in a still from 'Munroe Thuruthu'

An island, a huge house with an old man and a house maid. Into this apparently tranquil place, enters a wayward boy, the old man’s grandson, and all hell breaks loose. P.S. Manu’s Munroe Thuruthu tantalises the viewer into this amoral island that Achu, the grandfather-patriarch in the film (Indrans) describes as ‘our shore’ putting the rest of the world, as the ‘other shore’. So, anything that enters from outside – even a blood relation – is a threat that can turn fatal.

The film begins with the grandfather eagerly preparing for the arrival of his grandson, Kesu. Kesu and his father arrive by boat, and we realise that Kesu has left his studies and is a headache to his father, who is planning to put him in a mental hospital. But grandpa has other plans for him: confident of ‘managing’ Kesu, he asks his son to leave. The rest of the film is a tragic, spiralling drama of amoral lust and hunger for power and control over others.

It is the story of two worlds colliding: Kesu belongs to a world that offers instant solutions, ready-made satisfactions and anonymous refuge of global networks. In contrast, for Achu, everything from food to sex, past to future, originates and ends in that island. Both are marooned in islands, though of different sorts. Their divergent idiosyncrasies, outlooks, needs and desires collide in that all-man world.

But for men, there is only Kathu, the housemaid who is also an enigmatic sexual link across three generations. The film’s narrative unfolds through a series of puzzling questions: how to make out true from false, freedom from gallows, crime from enquiry, lust from love? The film begins and ends with a voice describing the island as a place where all eventually reach, ‘seeing without looking and hearing without talking’. But in the end, it is the young voice that recites it for the old man to repeat.

In the last shot, the camera dispassionately observes the old man lying on bed, awaiting death. Settled are the scores between generations, and between self and the other; not with emotional palliatives or social placebo, but with death: the only sure thing in any place: island or continent, time: now or later, or relationship: filial or alien.

Indran’s brilliant acting performance is one of the best in his career, and Prathap Nair’s evocative cinematography is one that captures the fluctuating emotional moods of the characters and the brooding ambience of the island enveloping them.

(A fortnightly column on cinema that veers away from the commercial format)

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