CHAPTER 7: NEW WIFE, NEW LIFE
Cut to Srirangam. The contrast of situations between Bengal and the south once more. Mythili is speaking on the phone with her mother. She informs that Mr. Chari’s prediction about Saket returning home was spot on and he had returned safe and sound. She indicates that he looks like the Tamil poet Bharathiyar with his moustache. This becomes an important point as will be seen in a few moments. She hangs up the phone and returns to the bedroom. Saket is getting ready to go out somewhere as she enters the room. She still maintains her distance and walks away from Saket. As she stands away from Saket, observing him, he apologizes. On asking the reason for his apology, he says it is because of his bizarre behaviour and she is too young to understand it. She demands an additional apology for that and tells that she is neither too young to understand things nor is their marriage a child marriage. She tries to assert her position in the relationship for the first time. She tries to tell Saket that she is equal to him and forms half the relationship. Bharathiyar, who never gave a thought about his wife Chellamma being an important person earlier in his life, later realized her value and also of every woman in the society. Eventually he started the feminist movement in Tamil poetry that revolutionized the position of women in the society. Thus the reference of Bharathiyar early on implies evokes a similar relation between Mythili and Saket.
What follows is seemingly a banal piece of conversation. But it is only later that we find that there is more to it. The importance of the conversation will be denoted later.
Mythili: All I knew in the beginning is that I’m your second wife. Now I know what you’ve been through. You were just three months old when your mother died. Right? You never even saw her. Right?
Saket: I have her photo though.
Mythili: But not having a mother means…
Saket: Sister Vasantha is like my mother.
She then empathizes with Saket about Aparna. A few moments later Saket draws out the picture drawn by Aparna and hands it over to Mythili and says:
“This is a piece of me. For You. I hope you don’t mind”
He explains that it is Aparna’s work. Mythili is quick to accept it and runs inside and brings out her own painting. And hands it over to Saket and, like a child, she repeats the same line as Saket above. Here again, the equality of both the spouses is stressed upon. Her painting is that of Andal, the Hindu devotee who admired Krishna, fell in love with him but never met him. This serene painting, a symbol of love, is directly in contrast with that of Aparna’s Kali whose terrifying stature and expression make her a symbol of death and violence. Thus, once again, the contrast between Aparna and Mythili and between the North and South of the country is evident here.
She now requests Saket to accept her as a friend (like the Krishna-Andal relationship) if not wife. She offers a handshake as Saket reciprocates. This is the first time they are close and come under the same depth in camera. Here, they are both physically and emotionally closer for the first time in the film not counting the ritualistic closeness during the marriage. She then asks is she can hug him. He accepts as if fulfilling a child’s petty wish. She hesitantly hugs him. He observer her keenness and mixed fear and is unable to help but smile. She says it is the first time. Upon asking what was, she replies that it was the first time that she saw him smile. Indeed, it was the first time he was smiling in a very long time. He is not able to believe that he smiled and looks into the mirror. He wants to look at the façade he has pulled over himself during the torturous year. He wants to see how he looked smiling. She insists that she had seen it even though it lasted for a fraction of a second. He is happy about that and smiles once again which Mythili is prompt to point out. She even calls for a hatrick after Saket smiles once more for a wisecrack from her about his smile.
He stares at her for a moment, relishing her child like innocence and her eagerness to bond but immediately feels guilty of not reciprocating the feeling. He is not able to look into her eyes and looks down. The view of the toe ring on her feet just adds to the guilt. He looks up again in her angelic face. He wants to say that he’s sorry for not caring for her and he has not been worthy of her attention. He takes his arms near her face as she places her cheek on his palm. As if consoling, he goes for a passionate hug when uncle Bhashyam interrupts.
Uncle Bhashyam calls Saket downstairs to meet Mr. Chari, the astrologist who has come a long way to meet him. Saket leaves the bedroom as he grazes Mythili for the first time. Saket goes downstairs to see everybody in the room sitting anxiously, ready for the conversation. Mr. Chari is staring at Saket’s horoscope which is objected by Saket. Upon asking the reason for his scrutiny, Mythili’s grandmother prompts Mr. Chari to tell him what he had told them. Surprised at this Saket looks at Mythili to ask if she had anything to do with this. Mythili gets a bit frustrated and denies it with a shake of her head. Mr. Chari starts explaining that since he has been working with dead bodies and skeletons there has been some force that has taken control over his thought and it can be cured by performing specific rituals. He also says that there is no scientific cure to all this and this is beyond science. Saket asks if it is beyond god too. Cornered, Mr. Chari tries to deny that only to be harshly treated by Saket. He urges Mr. Chari to go out. Saket has found out that all this arrangement is done by uncle Bhashyam in order to make Saket and others believe that he will no longer behave in such strange fashion that he had done once he performs these rituals. He even criticizes uncle Bhashyam who objects his gross faithlessness in astrology and asks Mr. Chari to leave at once which he does. Infuriated by all this, Saket hurries to his room and starts packing.
The helpless Mythili, fearing he may leave once again without information, requests him to inform the elders before leaving about his destination. Saket replies that they need not tell others wherever they go. Upon hearing this, she confirms if she should leave with him which Saket affirms. The hitherto far Mythili moves closer to Saket in the shot indicating the increase in closeness of their relationship. Saket asks her to pack and leave with him which she does happily.
Meanwhile Mythili’s mother Ambujam has packed food for the travel as delivers it to them as they board the car. As Mythili’s mother hands over the food to her daughter, Saket’s mother (read aunt Vasantha, as mentioned in the “smile conversation”) prompts him to take the food during the travel. A while later, uncle Bhashyam calls out Mythili in the pretext of a blessing and asks her to use symbols to convey the name of the railway station where they are heading to so that the rest of the family can follow them. She boards the car and tries to ask the name of the railway station for which Saket gives a smile. She insists on Saket answering her for which Saket reminds her that he had smiled for a fourth time and asks her if she noticed. Saket’s smile is clearly for the fact that he has seen through their petty plan and has devised his own way to break it. They board a flight!
On the flight Saket is reading the book given to him by Shriram. Mythili interrupts him with hesitation and asks him if the book is some lewd novel. Saket replies that some things are done better undercover to which Mythili point out that Gandhiji has said that nothing should be hidden from the world. Saket ridicules the statement and says that her blouse looks good even though it covers. Mythili suggests that Gandhiji means words and actions should not be hidden. Upon this Saket points out to the newspaper headline that she is holding and asks her opinion about that quote by Gandhiji. The headline reads “Protect Muslims in India and then alone would I go to Pakistan to protect the Hindus”. He is unhappy with Gandhi’s incessant support to the Muslims of India. Mythili tells that whatever Mahatma says would have a firm reason and it would be beneficial to follow it, affirming the Southern image of Gandhiji as a demi-god. She adds that revenge will take one nowhere and one has to live in harmony. Saket gets turned off and says that if we are to protect the Muslims here first, the Hindus in Pakistan will be long gone. He interrupts Mythili and makes a comment about Gandhiji. And Mythili replies.
Saket: “He has three kinds of monkeys, around him. The first, will only hear Mahatma. The second keep their mouth shut. Lest they let slip some criticism against Mahatma. The third close their eyes… and pretend to live in a world of Gandhi-esque fantasy. What kind are you?”
Mythili: “Among those cronies who use proximity to Mahatma for political gains, you might find monkeys like these. But as far as I’m concerned, I’m like the three Gandhian monkeys. I’m the monkey that sees, hears, or speaks no evil. But if it be good, my eyes, ears, and my mouth are always open.”
Note the bitter adversarial relation between them. Saket’s interpretation of the three monkeys portrays the closed nature of Gandhian followers and their inability to be pragmatic whereas a more cherubic meaning is assigned by Mythili who even follows that interpretation.
Upon hearing her openness, Saket offers her the book to read and asks her to read the historical work. This time, opposite to that of their first night of marriage, it is Mythili who denies the offer and says that she does not like works of semi-fiction. Again, the equality of the sexes is emphasized. It also shows how she has grown up idolizing the great men through their biographies and works of non-fiction. Saket accepts the argument with a “Touché”. He offers her a compilation of Marathi poems, also a covered book, possibly by Veer Savarkar again. The plane flies towards Bombay amidst cloudy situations symbolic of the tough times ahead.
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