Grandson’s ‘Kaatha’, Without Becoming An Exhibit’
by Elizabeth Menon

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Grandson’s ‘Kaatha’, Without Becoming An Exhibit’

((Article by Professor K Ayyappa Panicker, translated from Malayalam by Dr Elizabeth Menon)

For grandson Raj Nair and his camera, it is a trip down the solitary life of ‘Thakazhi’s Katha’ at Sankaramangalam, but a long deep sigh for the spectators!

It was surely a platform for ‘His Grandmother’ and grandmothers around the world where love, compassion, serenity and miracle were in abundance, without even a mere hint of deceit or uproar. In spite of it being a personal journey that gives ample representation for all other modes of human feelings, ‘The Exhibit’, directed by Raj Nair, shows qualities, to reserve its place in the mainstream.

One can say that this documentary is about Kamalakshiyamma, who was affectionately called ‘Katha’ by Thakazhi, and her solitary life; Katha stays alone in her family house Sankaramangalam, which is now taken over by the Department of Archaeology under the Government of Kerala as the ‘Thakazhi Sivasankarapillai Memorial’. But it tells the story of all the widows, their solitude and suffering; that is what one hears and must hear in this beautifully illustrated piece of music throughout. The world famous literary genius, Thakazhi Sivasankarapillai, is no more but his loving wife Katha in her 85th year, still shines like a precious jewel, only through reminiscing on the memory of her life with Thakazhi, the most beautiful music for her!

When one looks back into the life of those who are left behind, there is a kind of perfection in that emptiness -- the feeling of the presence of the real Thakazhi even in his absence; the story is told in such a way that these intricate feelings are felt by Katha’s grandson Raj Nair just as we mortals do.

What is life? Is it just ripples in one’s memory? Or the mistakes encountered during an attempt to bring back the life we lost, knowing fully well that it is not possible? Could it be the useless precautions that one takes in the knowledge that however much one tries to go forward, the return is inevitable? Is it perhaps, the sweet revenge in the fight against giving into failure? Or is it possible that it is an attempt at stopping the ‘Ever flowing wealth of a widow, the tears’? Her heart realizes the truth and cry out silently, “I really don’t know, my Love”! And while this is going on, ‘The Exhibits’, enriched by the solitude and emptiness of all the widows and all the old, lonely women around the world, leads the audience to an eternal solace.

Katha goes to visit her neighbour, another grandmother and they both engage in a pleasant conversation, enquiring about each other’s health, etc. They talk about loneliness, illness and their suffering, but still find time to smile! She lights the lamp in the evening and trims it to the correct flame and tries not to get taken over by the sad memories. All this, perhaps, reminds one what it feels like to be treated like an ancient object even when one is alive!

Unavoidable suffering that is brought on by old age, how not to be part of the indifference towards anything or anyone that tries to make anyone or anything, an exhibit, and at the same time, different phases of old age also are shown with such self defiance that this documentary gains depth. It also avoids political or cultural discussions and therefore Raj has succeeded in keeping the focus on Katha. Those who came to see Thakazhi’s turbulent public life perhaps were disappointed! There were glimpses of Kuttanadan life, family rivalry, customs and rites, cultivation and Thakazhi’s marriage; but toned down to the minimum. A keen observer would appreciate this documentary as a deep, silent sigh that wrenches at one’s heart. ‘The Exhibit’, a documentary with the use of minimum words, is an example in showing the importance of rejecting and excluding things that do not improve that particular film or documentary.

© E Menon



At last, somonee comes up with the "right" answer!
08/01/2011 - 15:55
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