Sunday, July 08, 2007

Bharathan Effect

For a society in which scientific research is not organic to its economic life, science always elides into something metaphysical, alien or mythic. Staying blissfully insulated from the labourious and thrilling processes of R & D, and living in the everpresent state of consumption, science appears to us as something faraway and magical. Naturally, scientific research, discoveries and its toils does not easily become part of the human drama of our everyday life or our visions of excellence, achievement and identity. For a society that imports almost all the goods, articles and gadgets it consumes and uses – right from foodstuff to electronics – all such objects are sheer magic, coming from faraway sources and unknown origins.

Exactly why the hero of the Anildas' film Bharathan, who is a compulsive discoverer of things, reaches nowhere in his pursuits, unable either to share his woes or express his talent, and has to eventually go to the primal adivasi to make his ultimate discovery, that of antigravity matter. Significantly such a displacement of agency, from Bharathan the local dabbler in mechanics to a faraway primal source, results in he himself getting lost, exemplified by his losing his family. This again brings into curious focus the 'natural divorce' between something 'mundane' as family and 'high' as science. When he immerses in one, he loses in another; he can never get along with both together. At another level, this poor local hero, Bharathan himself has to be displaced by a bigger hero from outside, in the figure of Suresh Gopi who comes from, no prizes for guessing, the West. Obviously, the Indian scientists are unable to recognise Bharathan's genius, lacking insight into their own culture (the same old sigh, if only they had!) and also patience. The sequence will immediately bring to our mind the 'Ramar Petrol' incident. In stark contrast, the western scientists shown in the film readily recognise Bharathan's talent and are eager to follow his trail. Obviously, the ultimate stamp of approval with regard to science has to come from them, the West, the mysterious originator of all the concepts and gadgets we use..

As a result what would have been an interesting film with a different theme, ends up as one that feels like its own duplicate. A film where its creators lack firm belief in their central character and as a result, never dwelling indepth upon his dilemmas, thus making him into an abnormal freak. The scriptwriter Madhu Muttom, blindly tries to replicate his earlier success in Manichitrathazhu and repeats himself ad nauseum here. Apart from the Mohanlal-like intervention of Suresh Gopi as a non-resident scientist and the final denouement of staging a drama as a therapy to cure the central character, the film even starts with a key sequence like in Manichitrathazhu!.

Like scientific discoveries, new themes also calls for new approaches and a lot of belief in one's own story

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