Only a drizzle, not a downpour
C S Venkiteswaran
Borges, the Argentinian writer, responding to the question why there are no camels in Quran says, “Mohammed, as an Arab, had no reason to know that camels were particularly Arab; they were, for him, a part of reality, and he had no reason to single them out, while the first thing a forger, a tourist, or an Arab nationalist would do is bring on the camels, whole caravans of camels on every page; but Mohammed, as an Arab, was unconcerned; he knew he could be Arab without camels” I think one could say the same about rain in Malayalam cinema. How come we have a very few striking or memorable visual passages of rain in Malayalam cinema? Is it because of its overwhelming presence our lives? Does that limit its metaphorical charge?
Yet, whatever presence rain had in our cinema, it has undergone transformations through time. Till the late 60’s or during the claustrophobic studio-bound decades of early film production, picturisation of rain must have been a technical challenge. In most of the rainy occasions in the narratives of that period, it was mainly to drench the heroine and provide voyeuristic pleasure to the audience; many a time it was a narrative ruse to make the lovers scamper to a lonely shelter away from the eyes of social mores, where it is an all too divine intervention invariably benign to the male. But there were rains of other kinds too. Neelakuyil opens with a heavy rain that lashes outside Satyan’s house; in a way, it is nature’s fury that vainly knocks at the doors of that false messenger of culture and eventually drives the dalit woman Neeli into his hands. In that period rain either re-vealed women for men or accentuated human tragedy, as world’s tears.
It was since the 70’s, when outdoor production and location shooting became more popular that the visual and metaphorical potential of rain were explored. I think there is not a single Adoor film without a rain – it drizzles and pours over human foibles, agonies and angst. In Shaji N Karun’s Piravi, the looming clouds and relentless downpour provide the bleak setting to the protagonist’s vain search for his son. The rain that pours over Mankamma’s dead body in TV Chandran’s Mankamma, is also one that tragically interfaces human fate and the indifference of the world. In Kamal’s Perumazhakkalam too, it has tragic dimensions, while his Azhakiya Ravanan has a song sequence that literally romances with rain, and the final, much awaited downpour in Bharathan's Vaishali has mythic as well as orgasmic dimensions.
I think one of the most romantic and lyrical of rains in Malayalam cinema in Thoovanathumpikal by Padmarajan, where rain stands in as the metaphor for love, in all its unpredictability, physical charm, and yearning.
But one feels that there is a lot more layers and nuances, drizzles and downpours waiting to be explored by Malayalam cinema visually, aurally and thematically