പ്രണയം . Meaning “Love”, in Malayalam.
The name of a film that moved me deeply. Indeed, I’m a die-hard romantic, given to mush and goo; quite comfortable if the garishness and the reality of the supposedly over-hyped emotion bye passes me 🙂 No, before you shudder at the thought of a movie review reeling out from here, let me confess. I do not know how to do a review. I’ve always admired the confidence and the ability of those who do, who state in no uncertain terms their opinions of a film, and assess its technicalities. I’m deeply impressed and feel terribly inadequate at the thought of my own inability to do so.
Now that my credentials, or lack thereof, have been presented, (whew! what a relief!) let me go on my newest ramble :).
This film, by the noted filmmaker, Blessy, has three stalwarts assaying the main roles. Mohanlal, along with Jaya Prada and Anupam Kher. Right off, it was refreshing to note how each of them played their age, or close to it, and how it gave me the goosebumpish feeling, because it expressed a truth very rarely seen in Indian films, popular films anyway, that Love has no expiry date. That is, after you get married, have the regulation no. of kids, and are well settled, Love takes the back seat, till it disappears, and life, whatever that means, takes over. It has always irked me, this notion that people over 35 to 40 have little or no love left in their lives, let alone the ones over 60! The kind that makes one flutter and faint… :D! Seriously!! Or the cliched one, that they still act like young teenagers out on their first date and woo each other with all the namby pamby idiocy of a chocolate film.
The story revolves around Grace (Jaya Prada), her husband, Mathew (Mohanlal), and Achutha Menon, Achu, (Anupam Kher), who she was married to, 40 years ago, from whom she is divorced and with whom she has a child. A son (Anup Menon, again a fine execution by the fine actor). There is her own daughter, her child with Mathew, and cameos of her granddaughter, her son’s daughter, and her boyfriend, Arun. You’ve got a range of ages there. You’ve also got love, and way it can bond. Too much of it too. And too much can sour, sometimes. Not so, this time. Not so, perhaps because the filmmaker is Blessy, who has been blessed with a touch, not a heavy hand.
There seems much that is predictable, but of course. And there is much that comes like a whiff of fresh air in times when Love is overrated, especially in its depiction on screen. The film opens with Achutha Menon returning after a visit to his eye specialist with his granddaughter and her boyfriend in his car (the boyfriend plays around and pinches his girlfriend’s leg thinking her grandad cannot see with his dilated eyes; we think so too, till he reminds the young punk, after getting out of his car that there are better ways of showing one’s affection :D- all in good jest :D) Later he meets Grace (who lives in the same apartment block, having moved in very recently) in the lift as he goes upto his son’s flat, and we do not know the connection, till of course later. One look at her and he has his second heart attack, in the lift. She takes him to hospital, identifies his name, age,( which even his daughter in law cannot) and waits till someone arrives. She asks the young woman who comes about her husband.
Slowly, not in the least hurrying the plot along (like I am), we know that her son hates her for having left him and his father. That his wife is not happy having to look after him. That she is even more unhappy having her father in law’s ex-wife in the same environs. There is much unhappiness here. The one person who is utterly happy is Achuthan Menon. Glad for having had a chance to meet his wife Grace again. And she, on her part, anxious for having news on how he is doing. We come to know that theirs was a runaway marraige, if I could put it that way… one that literally did, within a few years. When the young baby was 2 and a half years old. And forty years later they meet. A lot of their emotion is left undone, unresolved, and in Hollywood it would be a perfect recipe for another film like “It’s Complicated”, all the more with another husband in the offing. Not this one.
Grace’s husband is a poet at heart. A philosophy lecturer by profession, now retired. A Leonard Cohen fan (in fact after this film I’ve become one too! ). And a semi paralysed man who needs a wheelchair, and his wife to care for him. None of it lessens him, as a person. (Please note, I am not saying the usual … “man”). And in each and every feeling he has, genuine. Whether it be the inadequacy he feels, when he thinks of his condition, and measures it up to offering either comfort, or his body, to his wife, in the single tear that rolls out of his good eye, or in his reply to his wife that it is but natural that she would feel the visitations of the past upon seeing the man she first loved, she first gave of herself to. And yet, it is his supreme knowledge and understanding of love itself that makes him say, in all arrogance, that no one could have loved her as he does. One of the truest lines in the film! As also another, when he says that Love is selfish, no matter how we try to deny it. Love makes us selfish.
The magic in the film is when the three of them get together, despite the fact that their children are against it; despite her son warning her off, because, for him, she is stuff nightmares are made of because she left them, and because he does not want his father hurt again. Though they do plan to not meet, Love finds a way to bring the three together, Grace, her husband Mathew and Achutha Menon. It had to be. Becoming fast friends, they decide thumb their noses at their respective children, and set off to live a little. A little escapade, but one that means a lot to them. Right through their journey together, the day or two they do take off, are these beautiful nuances… Achutha Menon’s discomfiture when Mathew hold’s Grace’s hand, or gathers her close; the looks that Achutha Menon and Grace steal, unknowingly living a past moment… But nowhere does it feel like a false note. Love is just that; something that lives you, however bad that construct sounds! I do not know how else to put it. Even 1145 words on. Each of those nuances are feather light on the faces of these three actors. And so lay heavy long after we’ve seen it.
There is this matter of paying the price too. That is what struck me about the absolution of love in this film. A love that defied parents, was killed, though it still had to die, forty years on. Filial love, we so often admire here, is not what it seems, the daughter being almost abusive, the son actually being so; but the son requires fact and information from his father to want his mother again. Too late, by then. And then again, Grace. Loving one man, marrying him. Having to lose him. Marrying again. Finding love. Revisiting the past. Torn. But not quite so. Mathew keeps her sane. And beloved. Does she find fulfilment?
And Mathew, the Man who understands it all. Where it is going, and sanctions what will happen were he to die. That, perhaps was the most poignant part for me.
A gravestone at the end says “The song has ended. But the melody lingers…”. The second time I saw this film, I had a tear rolling down. (Not the first time, mind you :D)
Mohanlal as Mathew is perhaps the most stunning of the three. His singing of Leonard Cohen’s song at the restaurant. His portrayal as a semi paralytic. His absolute faith in himself, and Grace, his wife.
Anupam Kher was great too, except for his lip sync, that was awkward at best, but his acting? Classy. Jaya Prada is a beauty, nothing less. And despite the fact that she does not laugh much in the film, she too did well.
Rain and the sea are endless motifs. Very apt, and the cinematography, I thought, was simply great. The locales too. Found perfect places. Perfect faces. For a perfect emotion.
It, truly, was an experience. That is why I had said, this is not movie review. I’m just reviewing my experience of “Pranayam”.
24 to 27 October, 2011.
(Just returned after watching Ra.One. Had to finish this to believe in Cinema again :D)
Link worth reading. Tom Robbins on Leonard Cohen.
The pictures are all courtesy Google Images.