Merku Thodarchi Malai is the story of a landless labourer in the Western Ghats. At one level, the plot is quite simple. It shows life in all its hues – birth, wedding, working, fighting, laughing and ultimately death too. At another level, it is the complex, extremely painful and sad story of a landless labourer.
That is the heavy part. It makes you sad, it shakes you, it makes you question things, including the worth of your own existence. One has to deal with it, if you want to watch this movie. And watch it you must, if you asked me.
That apart, I went into the cinema out of curiosity. I had heard of it of course, but that wasn’t the only reason; I was primarily interested in the hills. You do get to see some of it, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed. If I had to think of one thing that let me down about the movie, it would be just this. And mildly so. The script only could lend itself that much to showing the hills. Those bits were delightful. They made me nostalgic, not only about the Western Ghats per se, but about the hills. I think I am as much a sea as a mountain person. If I had to choose, I’d find a place with both, perhaps. Beach at the foot of the mountain. And yet, there’s something about the mountains. They tend to draw me back. I had forgotten that feeling in all these years, except being reminded of it briefly when I went up there and broke my foot, and had to come back. Not tumbling, thankfully, but on a wheelchair. I felt it was a calling. I resolved to heed to it. I hope I do. I must.
Every single frame in the movie is worth framing, literally. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen, despite otherwise being a person who struggles to focus. I can be very focused as well, just as there are other contradictions that I am full of. Whoever it is, I realise, has played very well with light, especially in the scenes of dawn, dusk and night. I couldn’t help but envy the protagonist, just as I felt sad at his helplessness. He lives a simpler life. So simple, that you see him & others growing old, but more importantly, growing weary. This is a life where faith plays an important role, and the concept of faith has been presented in a wholly uncomplicated manner. Sanatana Dharma allows you to pray to a stone, literally, and so it is that simple. In this case, a pile of stones or even a tree.
There’s music by the Maestro. In the background. Unobtrusive, yet accentuating the overall aesthetic at just the appropriate places. And the songs remind me of something else I was perhaps missing. Music in general, and his music in particular. I realised I am a fan. The me, who understands fandom and still somehow thinks it is silly.
Funnily enough, I had put out my tickets for sale. I was exhausted, I needed to rest. I tend to buy tickets now and then, and then not go. It has happened several times. This afternoon, I was trying to take a nap when I got called on my phone. It irritated me briefly as I couldn’t sleep afterwards. It was raining. I decided to go. After all I had the rain for company. The way it rained, I thought it would be a small adventure to drive out anyway. It is another thing that it stopped raining the moment I decided to go, something that one is otherwise thankful for.
For once, I didn’t complain. My companion is in everybody, and everything. Every moment.