Papanasam (2015)
Jeethu Joseph
Tamil

 

PapanasamPaapanasam’s director Jeethu Joseph likes a few things. He likes the fade. He likes the Jimmy Jib. He likes filming his female actors in decreasing order of height. He likes the chimerical simple life. He likes the family. And boy, does he like the family? His film leisurely introduces us to the life of Suyambulingam (Kamal Haasan), a fifty-ish cable TV operator who spends nights at his office watching movies, away from his wife and two daughters – an effective enough shorthand for a middle-aged everyman whose love life is as unyielding as his wallet and who channels his libido onto cinema in ways more than one. So that’s what Paapanasam is – an elaborate odyssey for Suyambu to reassert masculinity, exacerbated it is as much by his perceived lack of education as by his age, and take the reins of his family. (It is one of those therapeutic films which entertain the trivial possibility that the whole narrative takes place inside the protagonist’s head to serve as an antidote to a fear or a lack – a direct parallel to the filmmaking endeavour itself.) And there lies the biggest strength of this rare thriller that is unapologetic and conscious of which value system is at the wheel. The family is paramount in Paapanasam, the engine that runs the world, the institute meriting the highest priority, more than friendship, religion, law and even the individual itself. Sure, it’s a reactionary text, asserting patriarchy’s enterprise, rigour and sense of order prevailing over matriarchy’s apparent laxity, but there’s a sense of something well thought through unfolding before us instead of the unintentionally muddled politics of many a modern movie. It is a film that at least knows which god it is prostrating itself before – the phallus in this case – and I think this clarity deserves something other than outright condemnation.

 

Uttama Villain

“People tell me I’m narcissistic but I disagree; if I were to identify with a figure from Greek mythology it wouldn’t be Narcissus, it would be Zeus.”

-Sandy Bates (Stardust Memories)

“If it’s a wedding, I must be the groom. If it’s a mourning, I must be the corpse.”

-Vallavarayan (Ejamaan)

Prometheus, punished for his transgression of the divine laws of Creation, must be one of the most crucial symbols of modernity and is certainly something of a patron saint for modernist art. In this proto-democrat is incarnated the secular myth of the artist as creator, as opposed to the artist as messenger. The legend that looms over Uttama Villain is that of Hiranyakashipu, the illicit child of Prometheus and Narcissus, in whom the actor-writer of the film, Kamal Haasan, sees an alter ego. Now Hiranya was – or rather is – a special one. He is not only in love with himself, but wants the entire world to worship him. But then, in Kamal’s inverted version of the myth, Hinranya is a hero, the artist figure who cheats death and achieves immortality, the implication being that a profound narcissism must lie at the heart of all artistic enterprise. This is as close to a self-defense from Kamal Haasan as we are going to get.

The film opens with a mirrored image – a reverse shot of a projector in a movie hall – signaling its strictly behind-the-scenes ambition. Kamal plays Manoranjan, a popular star churning out vacuous movies who is jolted out of his passivity by the news of imminent death. He wants to make one last film with his estranged mentor Margadarsi (K Balachander) – the one he wants to be remembered by. There is hardly anything that needs unveiling here. Here’s the sixty-year old actor, contemplating aging, death, fame, relevance and legacy, placing his self squarely in the foreground, without really sliding it behind a curtain of impersonal entertainment like he usually does. This is part of the reason why Uttama Villain falls more in line with European auteur cinema than with the multi-authorial, generic cinema of movie industries.

The other, more surprising trait that situates the film in the arthouse tradition is its narrative construction. Unlike any of Kamal’s recent pictures, the three-hour long Uttama Villain takes its own time to unfold – ironic enough for a film about the lack of time. Scenes breathe easy. Transitions between public and private spaces take place like clockwork. There are no twists, no revelations, no withheld pleasures. In other words: no poisonous vials, no ticking bombs, no safely-guarded secrets. Throughout the film, there is no additional information that the characters know which the audience doesn’t. This atypical lack of any narrative legerdemain is amazing, for it means that there are no big emotional payoffs that await the audience. This is probably Kamal’s riskiest script to date. On the other hand, there are redundant scenes, those whose objectives have been already either established or well understood. For instance, the earliest bits with Jacob Zachariah (Jayaram) or those featuring Manoranjan’s manager (M S Bhaskar).

At a late point in the film, Manoranjan points at a tree of life chart hanging on the wall in his cabin containing the photographs of those close to him. He says it would help him not forget these people. This, of course, appears to be the very intention behind Uttama Villain: a tree of life project of its own that brings together important individuals close to Kamal personally and professionally (barely an actor here who hasn’t worked with Kamal before). More importantly, this is an attempt by the actor to narrativize his own life and to place himself in a personal and professional continuum. When his daughter (Parvathy Menon) hints that he is the villain in her life, Manoranjan quips that he is trying to be a hero in his own. This film is a veritable response to the question “Who is Kamal Haasan?” posed by those around him, sure, but also himself.

There are numerous precedents to this type of confessional cinema – Wild Strawberries (1957), Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), 8 ½ (1963), Startdust Memories (1980), Deconstructing Harry (1997), and more pertinently here, All That Jazz (1979), of which a great writer once wrote: “There is something convenient and self-pitying about artists using their works as confessionals, where a modicum of inbuilt repentance tries to fish for unwarranted redemption, but there’s also something irresistibly human and disarming about it.” And there lies the rub. For a work that seeks to bare it all, Uttama Villain is astonishingly anodyne and unblemished. There is nothing about it that portrays Manoranjan/Kamal (there is little reason to doubt the congruity between these two personalities) as anything other than a nice bloke caught in wrong circumstances, none of the honesty and messiness that comes with this type of personal cinema. This is not as much Kamal Haasan opening himself up to us as it is him telling himself the story of his own life. There is certainly a lot of intimately personal material in here, whose truth can only be judged by those very close to the actor, but, for the outsider, the overwhelming impression is that of a martyred saint. One always senses a remove, a separating wall between his true self and the sort of self-portrait he paints here. It is as though Kamal can’t stop acting even in his real life, as though he can’t step out of the character of Kamal Haasan that he is playing every day and kill it, at least a bit. Immortality is indeed tragic.

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PS: I realize that I have not even mentioned the elephant in the room: the film within the film. I liked this segment, with its pleasant use of traditional forms and their innate expositional superfluity, and wondered what a full-length children’s movie from Kamal would look like today. The segues into and out of this track, in particular, are fantastic in the way they bridge narratives of vastly varied visual and emotional textures. More interestingly, it presents us a Kamal Haasan we rarely see these days: vulnerable, self-deprecating, less than perfect, pawn of nature and fate. I take it that the story of this section forms a counterpoint to that of Manoranjan in oblique ways and helps posit the various dualities that underpin this project, specifically, and Kamal’s filmography, in general. I find it unrewarding, not to mention to be complicit in stoking the Kamal Haasan cult, to go into the specifics, but let me just say this: The final, downbeat shot of the film – a zoom into the actor’s grainy face on screen strongly echoing for me the last shot of Altman’s Buffalo Bill (1976) – is something I never expected from Kamal Haasan at this point in his career. It is a moment that throws into question both my view of the man and all the sureties that the film has been hitherto standing on. It is the only truly equivocal image of in film in which everything else is set on a platter for academic interpretation. Has Manoranjan indeed conquered death through his art? Is immortality a product of individual enterprise? Is having your image projected on a screen for eternity immortality at all? What does it mean to live on as a shadow without body? Hell if I know.

Thevar Magan (1992) (aka The Chieftain’s Son)
Bharathan
Tamil

“Go on, go educate your kids”

 

Thevar MaganThe slew of movies in Tamil cinema based on villages stopped with the late eighties as cities became the prime audience of the filmmakers. Though infinitely many stories still lie in the villages waiting to be told, not many movies from the nineties and the new century have tapped it. One film that has indeed done it, Kamal Haasan’s Thevar Magan (1992), stands out as a vital milestone in the history of Tamil Cinema.

Coming as a revamped adaptation of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Thevar magan chronicles the life of Sakthi (Kamal), the son of the village head Periya Thevar (Shivaji Ganeshan) who has just returned from his life in the city for a few days. He experiences a totally different and even savage life in the rural area and is disgusted by it. Just when he decides that he has had enough of it, things take an awry turn and Sakthi is forced to relinquish his career to take up the helm of the village administration. Past rivalries are dug up, cries of scores to be settled once and for all echo and hatred and violence reign. Sakthi decides that the village needs to be saved and the villager’s pride for caste and race needs to be eradicated.

More than anything, the film is a powerhouse of high wattage performances with the central conversation between the two veterans remaining one of the best scenes of recent times. One can easily condemn the film as glorifying violence but on second thoughts, it is indeed the violence of the film that supports its cause. At the end of the film, one does realize that nobody has won and violence does not pay.

CHAPTER 20: EPILOGUE

Not a single scene, line or character is wasted in the film. In fact each character is used to the maximum by employing the fitting metaphors and allegories. Each line carries so much weight that the film packs more than thrice the film’s length in it.  The screen time is so judiciously used that one can feel how serious the film is both for its makers and viewers. It is one rare Indian film that invites the viewer to take part in the film and not just sit back and wait for things to happen. A truly multi-layered film that delivers different amounts of entertainment, thought and excitement depending on the viewer’s perception and perceptibility.

The quality of the techniques employed in the film has “class” written all over. The music in the film never becomes emotionally manipulative as less confident directors would have opted to use. Kamal uses the right amount of amplitude and tempo for the music that Ilayaraja has given which ranges from classical Carnatic, Hindustani and Lavni to western classical and choir music. The compositions were done using the Budapest orchestra and symphony group in Hungary. Alternatively, silence is also used effectively in many places. Being a period film, Art direction becomes vital for description of the story. Sabu Cyril has taken care of that big time. Right from the old Pears calendar in Birla House to the British cement advertisement in Calcutta, from the Tanjore paintings in Srirangam to  the vehicles and instruments in the cities, not one object or concept is anachronistic or out of place.

Costume designer Sarika Haasan cruises through the project, probably her biggest yet. The costumes range from traditional Iyengar, Bengali and Marathi to conventional British and Gandhian. Her work perfectly provides the soul for Kamal Haasan’s narration. Thiru’s camera work comfortably underlines the emotions that the director wants to convey. Employing high and low angle shots to respectively contrast the saviour and the saved, the majority and minority and the violent and non-violent, the cinematography is effective in capturing the romantic and physical closeness of humans and also the emotional alienation and friction between individuals.

It is just a cliché to talk about the greatness of Kamal Haasan’s performance. I will just skip that and assure you that Hey Ram will easily count in his top five performances ever. With an army of India’s finest grade-A actors that includes Nasseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Girish Karnad, Hema Malini, Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Atul Kulkarni, one cannot complain about the performances. All the actors have dubbed for themselves, though making it difficult to follow at times, adding to the depth of the characters.

Perhaps the biggest asset to the film is its refusal to employ black and white characterization. Right from Gandhi to Govardhan, no body is projected as an all good person and everybody has their own selfish reasons in their life. As these flawed yet lovable characters lead their routine lives, Saket, another deeply flawed character, completes his pitch perfect character arc. A rare thing to see in Indian films is this transparent treatment of their characters.

They say a picture is worth a 1000 words. And a film is worth a 1000 pictures. I say a movie like Hey Ram is worth a 1000 films. With the help of his top grade technicians, his most personal and riveting script, fabulous performances and brilliant direction, Kamal Haasan has woven a film that is truly anti-violent and makes a heart felt appeal to stop the atrocities carried out in the name of God.

“Hey Ram” is not only the call of the victims towards God for help, it is also one man’s cry to himself, to find the reason for his spiritual disappearance and the quest to restore humanity and peace within him and outside him. The film, way ahead of its times, was a box office failure but will be hailed as a classic decades after its release. It will be recognized as the turning point of Indian filmdom and these two words will resonate as the Vande Mataram of Indian cinema: Hey Ram!

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You can find the pdf version of the same analysis here

CHAPTER 19: INTO THE FUTURE

Hey RamCut to the present. The video becomes full fledged colour, suggesting that all that has been hidden is now revealed. The walls are decorated with the photographs that were taken during the entire journey of Saket’s madness. Saket Ram describes the photographs to Tushar. Tushar then asks if he could take back his great grandfather’s sandals and spectacles back. Saket says that it indeed belongs to him and returns it. What Saket Ram Sr. took from Gandhi Sr., Saket Ram Jr. returns to Gandhi Jr. As he returns the grasses, Saket Ram tries to look through it, as if trying to look at the world through the eyes of Gandhi. Tushar follows suit and tries to look through the glasses too.

The song that is being played in the back ground is “Ram Ram, Hey Ram” – A very vibrant and majestic tune that talks about non-violence, cultural tolerance, the future and need for resurrecting humanity. Ironically, without playing a somber tune on the death of Gandhi and Saket, a more motivating tune is being played hinting that past is past. We have to learn from it and move forward carefully. It is up to the new Gandhi and the new Saket, the youth of India, to lead the nation on a non-violent path. As the end credits roll on, Saket and Tushar open up the windowed wall that has a huge sketch of Gandhi, allowing sunlight to pierce the room for the first time metaphorically opening up Gandhiji’s mind to the world and appealing to the nation’s youth to expose themselves to the history of the nation and also gain an insight of Gandhiji. The song attains its crescendo at this point. The screen fades to black, the song continuing, as the future of India stand near the open door discussing the nations past, present and future.

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CHAPTER 18: THE SHOWDOWN

Hey RamWe cut back to the past even after Saket Ram is dead. The rest of the story is revealed to Tushar by Saket Ram’s grandson. We return again to colour. Saket is ready to renounce the animal inside once and for all. He looks at the animal for one last time in the mirror. He will not be the same person hereafter. He closes the gun case after placing the gun in it, metaphorically implying that he has put an end to his rage of violence which will be shut hereafter.

Hey RamSaket arrives at the Birla house. He notices the date on the calendar – 30th January. The day India would cry. He notices Gandhiji walking out with Sardar Patel and Moulana Azad after his daily prayer. Shruti Haasan appears as Sardar Patel’s daughter. Saket knows Gandhiji’s routine for he has been observing him every day for the whole month. He notices Gandhiji walking towards him as he tells his helpers about how punctuality is important in life. He is walking fast towards the main building. He interrupts Gandhiji and a conversation ensues:

“Saket: Please, Bapu is late for the meeting. I have a confession to make.
Gandhiji: I also have a confession to make. I’m ten minutes late. At my age, every second counts. And to waste it amounts to murder.
Saket: Please, Bapu, listen to me.
Gandhiji: You listen to me, Ram…When we walk to Pakistan together, we will confess our sins to each other. There will be days of walking and lots of time.”

Little does Gandhiji know that wasting time literally is going to amount to murder. Saket is tormented as he stands before Gandhiji. He is pushed on his knees by the weight of his guilt and the humbleness of the man in front of him. He places his palm on the box and tries to tell Gandhiji the truth. Gandhiji’s words push Saket more and more to guilt and bring him to near tears reminding him of Amjad’s promise to walk to Pakistan. As Saket tries to delay Gandhiji so that he can pour his heart out, the latter apologizes and walks on.

As Gandhiji walks, he talks to his helpers about the quality of food he is being given

“Gandhiji: You have been feeding me cattle fare.
Susheela: Bapu, you used to call it horse fare.
Gandhiji: It is not grand of me to relish what no one else will even touch.”

Note the comparison of Gandhiji once more to a horse reminding of the comparison established by the Maharaja in the stable in Bombay. Also Gandhiji, perhaps, indicates that nobody else follows his doctrine of Ahimsa. He alone has been following it.

Hey RamAs Gandhiji proceeds, the crowd grows thicker. As he nears the building, a man, whom we had seen during the blast 10 days ago stalling Gandhiji and greeting him. As the helpers tell him that Gandhiji is late for the meeting, he reveals a pistol and shoots Gandhiji thrice who falls down helplessly. He does not cry “Hey Ram” as believed by many to be his last words. The man is Nathu Ram Godse, who had escaped the clutches of the police in the hotel. He drops his gun after making sure Gandhiji is dead. Everyone around is stunned but are quick to start thrashing Godse. Mr. Goyal stops them and tells them that this is the moment of truth. He asks them to follow Gandhiji’s doctrine of Ahimsa in the most testing time. He manages to stop the crowd beating Godse. Gandhiji, the Ravana is killed. The prophecy is complete, but not by our Ram. It is a Ram all right, Nathu Ram.

Hey RamThe mentality of Saket is most complex now. They say that you’ll know the value of things when they disappear. The same thing happens to Saket. As he sees Gandhiji being shot and killed, he is both furious that a man has done such a crime and frustrated that the mishap has occurred just when he had decided it should not. He is enraged at the murder and runs towards him taking out his gun. He is ready to kill the murderer as he runs. As he nears the scene, he is able to hear Mr. Goyal’s appeal for non-violence. Saket breaks down. He sees himself in Nathu Ram. He sees how he had wasted his life and even committed sin killing tens of men. Mr. Goyal’s appeal reminds him of how wrong he was in getting back at the murderers immediately after Aparna was killed. He realizes that this is indeed the moment of truth and holsters the gun back into the box. He learns that true masculinity is not avenging a loss, but much more non-violent and cerebral than that. He has decided that he will not commit the same folly as he did in Calcutta and closes the box. He has eschewed violence for good. But at the cost of what?

Hey RamAs Godse is taken away from the police, Saket cries holding the box close to his heart, careful not to let it slip open, suggesting that he will not indulge in violence by the fall of the mind. As Saket stands crying alone in the vast grounds, we hear the haunting rendition of “Vaishnava Janato” by D. K. Pattammal, the same song that Mythili had sung during their first meeting. The song translates to:

 

“He is the real Vaishnava, who feels other’s suffering as his own.
He is the real Vaishnava, who feels other’s suffering as his own.
He is the one without any conceit who serves those afflicted.
He is the one without any conceit who serves those afflicted.
He is the real Vaishnava, who feels other’s suffering as his own.”

Hey RamSaket Ram realizes the truth of the song with reference to Gandhiji. He realizes that, even though he was a Vaishnava by birth, he has not done enough to sustain the title. He does not deserve to be called a Vaishnava. As the corpse of Gandhiji is taken away by his followers, Saket watches on. The colour shifts back to black and white to indicate that nobody knew what followed.

 

Hey RamSaket traces back the path that the followers came. He sees the blood of the Mahatma on the way. He goes back to the scene of murder and notices Gandhiji’s slippers and spectacles on the floor. He picks them up takes them with him. The role of the mechanical and angry Rama is gone. He has become, instead, Bharata who brings back home, his beloved brother’s sandals with love but immense pain about his exile into forest.

He waits at the Birla House as Lord Mountbatten, Nehru, Azad and Sardar Patel arrive. They try to pacify the crowd by saying that it was a Hindu, not a Muslim, who killed Gandhiji. They go in and discuss the further course of action.

“Nehru: How did you know it was a Hindu?
Mountbatten: I didn’t. Was it a Hindu?
Nehru: Yes.
Mountbatten: Thank God for that! Or the country would have been torn apart.”

Hey RamThey decide to announce that it was a Hindu who murdered Gandhi. Saket cries. He considers himself to be that Hindu. As Saket falls to the ground, we hear the song “Raghupathy Raghav Rajaram”, as we did in the beginning, being played in the background completing and closing the circle of madness of Saket.

 

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CHAPTER 17: THE LAST BREATH

Hey RamCut to the present. Back to black and white. Saket and the rest of them are still in the trench. Saket’s eyes are lit alone by the light from above, once again indicating his recollection of the past. The nurse informs the doctor Munawar that the oxygen supply, on which Saket is surviving, just got over. We can here the sound of gunfire from above. Dr. Munawar murmurs: “Ya Allah”. The oxygen mask on Saket’s face is removed and he is left alone to breathe his final few breaths. He looks at the nurse who appears to him as the young Mythili, in the form he had last spoken to. He smiles and tells her that he is not able to breathe. She asks him to wait a little till the gunfight above stops. He asks what the reason for the fight is. His grandson tells him that it is because of the Hindu-Muslim clashes. Saket cries out:

“Still?”

He is pained by that the Hindu-Muslim riots, that had ruined the lives of many over 50 years ago, still continue. He is surprised that the riots have not stopped even after Gandhiji has taken the “bullet of hatred” and gone down.

Hey RamIt is said that some of your life’s moments flash through your eyes the moment before you die. As Saket’s breath becomes tougher and tougher to take, he is able to Mr. Wheeler of the first scene shouting “It’s pack up time”. Indeed, Saket Ram’s time had come. Saket says to “Mythili” what would be his final words.

“I’m getting those bad dreams again. Wake me up. Wake me up.”

By “bad dreams”, perhaps, he means his whole life again. He wants to forget his cruel and torturous life. He asks Mythili to wake him up and free him from the torment. Indeed, he is freed of the torment. Saket Ram draws his last breath. “Saket” Ram passes away on the same day Saket (Ayodhya) was desecrated – December 6th. The nurse closes his eyes as the only surviving Saket Ram breaks down.

Hey RamThe shutter from above is removed as the police inspector comes. He says that the riots are over and they were lucky to survive. He asks the plight of the old man and learns that he is no more. He apologizes as the stretcher is taken onto an ambulance. We also see the TV reporter covering the riot and learn that these riots take place every year. Again the dissimilarity in times is being shown here.

 

Hey RamAs the ambulance leaves, Saket Ram asks the inspector, who has saved their lives, his name. The inspector searches for the badge on his chest, only to find it is lost in the battle between him and the rioters, indicating that true heroes’ names go unnoticed during war times. He leaves it alone and tells Saket his name is Ibrahim. A beautiful parallel is struck here. Saket, a Hindu, had saved the life of Amjad, a Muslim, though momentarily. He had also saved Amjad’s family and friends in the trench inside the house. Similarly, Ibrahim, a Muslim, has saved the life of Saket Ram, though only for a while. But he has saved the lives of his family and friends, also, in the trench. It is as if Amjad was reborn to save Saket and pay back in kind for his support. Also, Dr. Munawar, a Muslim, tried to save Saket till the very end but fruitlessly. This is in agreement with Dr. Mani, a Hindu at the Chandni Chowk hospital, trying to save the life of Amjad till the very end, also fruitlessly. Evidently, this portrays the circle of life and the universal nature of humanity. The camera angles perfectly highlight the similarities (and dissimilarities) of the saviour and the saved in both cases.

The ambulance delivers Saket’s corpse to his house where his mourners have gathered. A very old Mythili is sitting besides the corpse. This is the first time we are seeing her old. We also see an old Nafisa entering and consoling Mythili who says:

“He has left me all alone, Nafisa.”

Hey RamAgain we see the double entendre that has been so consistent in the film. Mythili’s words mean that Saket has passed away before her. It also reveals her despair at Saket leaving her for Sanyasa. She did not speak one word immediately after he had left. So, as we see it, this is the first time Mythili is opening up her sorrow of Saket leaving the house. We also see another person placing on Saket’s chest. He greets Mythili and stands back. He is introduced to Saket Ram as Tushar Gandhi (Tushar Gandhi), the great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.

“Tushar: I have read your books. I am your fan.
Saket: I am your fan, too.
Tushar: No. You are mistaken. You must be my great grandfather’s fan. I am just a great grandson. But you’re a great writer.”

Upon this, Mythili says that Saket Ram was so proud of his grandson indicating that indeed he had spoken to Mythili after all the chaotic events. She hands Saket his grandfather’s cupboard key and says that his grandfather wanted him to have it. Tushar and Saket then go to Saket’s room to see it.

Hey RamSaket switches on the lights of his grandfather’s room for the first time in years. After a very long time this is the first time anyone could see the objects in his room. Tushar and Saket see the things around with equal awe for they are both alien to this world. Tushar notices the three monkey skulls in front of the “three monkeys” statue. The statue, perhaps, indicates that the three monkeys, which Gandhiji had endorsed, are no more and people no more follow the principles behind the statue and Gandhi’s principles in general.

Saket opens the cupboard and brings a box and calls Tushar.

“Saket: Mr. Gandhi, I think I have the most extraordinary story to tell you.
Tushar: Sure, I like your stories very much.
Saket: It’s not just my story. It’s your story too. In fact, it’s ours now.”

Hey RamSaket realizes that the stories that his grandfather had been telling are not tales of imagination but absolute truth as he claimed. It was the history of the country. Saket is shocked at the discovery and realizes the importance of this truth in history. As he reveals the story to Tushar, we are able to see the photographs of Saket Ram Sr.’s mother, his grandson and others in bright light.

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CHAPTER 16: RENDEZVOUS WITH RAVANA

Cut to Birla House. Gandhiji is holding a talk with Premier Suhrawardy as the other Gandhians watch, suggestive of Gandhiji’s transparency in his affairs. Saket is watching too. Suddenly Gandhi turns back and calls the photographer who is behind him.

“What is going on behind my back? Don’t shoot me from behind… Be a man shoot my ugly face from front”

Hey RamAs Saket hears this, he gets a lump in his throat. He feels as if Gandhiji is addressing him. He not only realizes the absence of his masculinity in shooting a Gandhi from the ventilator at the back, but also feels guilty of conniving surreptitiously against a transparent man. After the meeting Gandhiji is accosted by a group of affected Hindus and is asked to not involve himself in the politics of the country. Gandhiji patiently, hears them out and says that the Muslims want him to stay whereas the Hindus want him to go away. He is confused as to whom to listen to and also adds that he will only listen to the voice of God. He asks the people to stay there till he finishes his work with the others gathered. As the crowd becomes restless, Gandhiji’s helper tries to send them away. Gandhiji stops the helper and says:

“If they have to vent their anger, it is better they vent it on me, rather than on some Muslim brothers. Tell them to wait.”

Saket is shaken once more. This is apparently what he has done. His anger on one person has caused the death of one hundred. He is surprised at Gandhiji’s dedication towards his goal and realizes that his true intention is peace and is not backed by secondary motives. As Gandhiji walks, his helpers ask the people gathered to respect him at least as their elder to which Gandhiji tells her:

“You are getting yourself off. How can we introduce them of kindness if we who keep advising them cannot control our own tempers?”

She says that she is not a Mahatma to hold her temper and be calm. Gandhiji notices Mr. Goyal ahead of him, greets him and tells him:

“This girl seems to be insinuating that I am a Mahatma. Yesterday I slipped and fell in the bathroom. If I had died there, the world would’ve known I’m not a Mahatma.”

Hey RamMr. Goyal introduces Uppili Iyengar to Gandhiji. He tells Uppili Iyengar that everyone is a Mahatma and if one is not, he is an animal. Mr. Goyal introduces Saket to Gandhiji and tells him how he saved the Muslims in the factory. Gandhiji calls him his “Rama from the South”. It becomes a strong statement in two senses. One that Saket is like Rama of Ramayana and also that people like him are rare since the south predominantly associates itself with Young Krishna. Mr. Goyal also introduces Amjad’s family to Gandhiji upon which Nafisa says that Amjad wanted to walk to Pakistan with Gandhiji. He also learns that she is Saket’s foster sister. Gandhiji asks Saket:

“Gandhiji: When did she become your sister?
Saket: Before my country was torn into two pieces.
Gandhiji: See, Mr. Uppili, even your son-in-law is also a Mahatma.
Saket: No, I am not.
Gandhiji: Most Mahatmas don’t admit they are one. Do you think I am one?
Saket: You will deny it if I say you are, so I shall deny you another denial, sir.
Gandhiji: Nafisa, I am already liking your brother.”

He consoles Amjad’s family. He turns to Saket and tells:

“You know Ram… I am willing to take all this communal hatred in the form of a bullet if I am promised that along with that bullet, they will also bury this communal hatred, and live together as one community.”

Hey RamThese words resonate in Saket’s ears. Tears rush into his eyes. He is not able to get words out of his mouth. He manages to tell Gandhiji that these were the exact words that Amjad had said before he was struck down. He realizes, now, the universality of feeling of brotherhood and want of peace. Gandhiji asks Saket and Nafisa to walk with him to Pakistan to fulfill Amjad’s promise. Saket develops a strange sense of respect for the man standing before him. He is amazed by his sense of commitment and true desire for peace.

Gandhiji asks Mr. Goyal to come the next day as he is tired because of the fasting. He walks away from the scene as he turns to Uppili Iyengar.

“Gandhiji: I speak little Tamil. ”Nettiku vaango”. ”Nettiku” is tomorrow, isn’t it?
Uppili Iyengar: No, Bapu, ”Nettiku” is yesterday. Tomorrow is ”Naalaiku”.
Gandhiji: So my critics are right. They say that this Gandhi is still stuck with yesterday.”

Saket watches Gandhiji go. Ironically, it is Gandhi, the Ravana who has asked the sans gun Saket, Rama to go today and return tomorrow in contrast to the epic hero who asked the weaponless Ravana to return the next day. We not only see the roles getting reversed here, but also the morality of the two people involved. We are gradually revealed the heroic nature of Gandhi (Ravana) and the cruel side of Saket (Rama). We also notice the slow respect that is built for Gandhi in Saket, a reversal of the image he has formed of Gandhi in his mind. Gandhiji is not a demon now. He realizes that it is because of people like Gandhiji that the country is surviving. He learns that his mission is a wrong one.

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CHAPTER 15: LOSS OF A BELOVED – 2

Hey RamAmjad struggles for life as Saket lifts him up. He also ties a cloth around his head to stop the wound. Saket is searching for the hospital. He is not able find his way out. Amjad asks Saket to take him to the soda factory as Saket obeys. Many people fire at him. Saket does not care if it is a Hindu or a Muslim. He just kills them to save Amjad. He finally brings Amjad to the factory. The ladies cry on seeing him in that condition. Saket retires at a corner as he sees the silhouette of a woman giving birth inside the room. The shrieks of the woman are heard by Saket as they transform to the cries of “Ram, Ram”. The sounds remind him of Aparna’s cries during the attack and the visuals remind him of Mythili’s pregnancy. He is haunted by both the memories, which he thought he had forgotten. He is reminded the universality of womanhood.

Hey RamAmjad struggles to upstairs as Saket follows him. They see the men fighting the Hindus. It is learned that the pregnant woman is Qureshi’s wife, the man who wanted to kill Saket in the factory. Qureshi tries to shoot Saket and is stopped by the struggling Amjad. Qureshi has run out of bullets and the building is soon to fall. Amjad tries to negotiate with the shooters even as the others in the factory object, but in vain. Amjad is shot in the leg. Saket is furious and shoots out a few Hindus with his gun. He then opts to defend the factory for the sake of his brother. He too runs out of bullets after a while. Meanwhile, Qureshi tries to shoot Saket, with the newly obtained bullets, just to be stopped again by Amjad who asks him to give his weapon to Saket. As he throws his gun to Saket, Qureshi is shot to death.

Hey RamAs Qureshi falls, we hear the cry of a new born. Clearly, it is Qureshi’s child. A new life is born as another one dies. This is the same thing that happened when Saket was born. His mother passed away on his birth. Saket, once again, is reminded of the universality of life and death. The attacking crowd disperses as the atmosphere becomes silent.

 

 

Hey RamSuddenly, there is a bang on the factory’s door as a wooden drum is dislodged and rolls into the trench where the women and the children are. They gather the drum and start playing it to celebrate the birth of the child. Amjad watches them pityingly for they are not aware of Qureshi’s death yet.

The banging continues as Saket and Amjad become alert expecting another Hindu onslaught. Saket closes the trench in order to save the Muslims below from the attack that is to happen above. Saket and Amjad are pleased to find that the people at the door are policemen and have come with an ambulance to save them. Amjad is taken into the ambulance on a stretcher as Saket touches his brother’s blood drenched palm. He is moved. He opens the trench door and finds that Qureshi’s child is a boy – his rebirth perhaps.

Hey RamThey thank him for his help and learn that Qureshi is dead. Amjad’s mother and Nafisa ask him where and how is Amjad. He is speechless as Nafisa runs crying after the ambulance. Saket breaks down. It is him who has been responsible for all this murdering. He had started riots in the hitherto quiet locality. Yet another wife has lost her husband and yet another newborn child won’t be seeing is father. And the count goes on. He has been the initiator for the massacre that has brought about his brother’s plight.

Saket enters the hospital where Amjad is. It is overflowing now. He realizes it is because of him alone. He sees children, women and old men – the innocents of the riot – struggling for life. He enters Amjad’s ward and sees an inspector inquiring him about the “man with the gun”. Nafisa and her mother-in-law thank their saviour- Saket. Upon being asked if he has seen Bhairav earlier, Amjad replies

“I’ve never seen that animal before! I only know Ram…my brother!”

Hey RamAmjad reaches for Saket and holds his hand. He then collapses. The doctor tries to do some treatment as the senior doctor evacuates the area and calls Saket alone. He informs him that Amjad is no more and the treatment is to avoid his family from breaking down in the emergency ward. He asks Saket to take them out and inform them. Amjad gets his final blow. His brother is dead because of him. Just when he thought he had got rid of his guilt about being unable to save his wife, he is reminded of his masculine impotence in saving his brother. Saket takes Amjad’s family out as the ward door closes on Amjad, physically and metaphorically.

 

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CHAPTER 14: A YOUNGER BROTHER

Hey RamSaket is desperate to get the gun back. Just then he gets a brainwave. He remembers Govardhan telling him that he knows the place in and out. He digs through the trashcan and retrieves the visiting card Govardhan had given him. As the curfew nears, Saket goes into Chandni Chowk with Govardhan. He does not tell till then that he was in search of a truck and not a girl. Govardhan says that he is scared and wants to leave. Saket does not allow him. Govardhan picks up a stick and tries to attack Saket. But he is too slow and too old for Saket, who twists his arm and sends him begging for life.

Hey RamAs Saket asks Govardhan about the address, he hears someone calling “Hey Ram”. It is Saket’s friend Amjad. He is delighted to see Saket. But Saket is not a bit surprised or happy. Perhaps, he views Amjad as a Muslim and not a friend. Amjad hugs him and asks him if Govardhan is troubling him. The coward Govardhan says that he is a close friend of Saket’s and tries to stick with him in order to save his skin. Amjad asks Saket about Aparna and he comes to know of the mishap. He asks Saket to come to stay at his house till the curfew is lifted. He says that he has moved to India permanently and Saket’s sister Nafisa is there too. But Saket is not interested. Amjad reminds him that this is not South India and will get butchered if he stays out. Saket says that he needs to find this Azad Soda Factory first to retrieve his wallet.

Hey RamAmjad smiles and leads them to the place. Possibly, it is his factory. They proceed as Govardhan sticks around for safety. They go through a surreptitious setup to enter the factory. Govardhan tries to leave but Amjad prevents him to go out during curfew. As they enter the factory, they are able to see many Muslim men holding guns and staying low. Amjad asks them to wait till he gets back with the wallet. Amjad talks to a few men about the wallet who hit him back for conniving with a Hindu and tell him that the “wallet” is actually a gun. One of the men, Amjad’s uncle decides to deal with Amjad later and finish off the Hindus now. Saket is not a bit scared, in contrast to Govardhan who is trembling. Saket stands with his cold deadpan face before the Muslims. Amjad defends Saket and says that he is like a brother to him and Nafisa ties a Rakhi every year. He also believes that the gun is not Saket’s. But to his surprise, Saket admits that the gun is indeed his, but is not here to kill anyone. It just came thereby accident and he will go back if it is returned. Govardhan is scared out of his wits and begs for mercy. The other two Muslims get ready to shoot the Hindus as Amjad defends them. He tries to negotiate as Saket takes a good look around and plans his next move.

Hey RamOne of the two Muslims asks Amjad to move and says that he will only blow Saket’s knee off. As Amjad tries to stop him, Saket jumps into action and manages to ward off the people surrounding him. He falls off the window along with Amjad’s uncle, who dies moments later. He manages to hide here and there as the other Muslims search for him. Amjad helps him to hide too. Meanwhile, Govardhan calls a certain Mr. Chari and tells them about the factory and the ammunitions in it. As Amjad and Saket hide from the eyes of the rest of the Muslims, they talk about the situation, the partition and much more. I’ll give the transcript of the conversation instead of paraphrasing it for more effect.

“Amjad: Tell me the truth. I can still save your life. Did you come here to kill Muslims?
Saket: No
Amjad: But this gun…
Saket: Mine.
Amjad: But why did you bring it here?
Saket: I didn’t. Your Uncle’s truck brought it here. Okay, I am leaving now.
Amjad: Are you mad? Fool! You’ll die. Fool! I don’t know why you are carrying this gun, but you’ll need my help to get out of here.
Saket: I don’t need anyone’s help. I’ll escape on my own.
Amjad: And you’re going to shoot your way through, won’t you? Which means that gun is meant for killing Muslims!
Saket: It isn’t, but it could be.”
Amjad: You too Ram? But why?

Hey RamSaket points the gun to Amjad’s forehead who is surprised to find his tame friend carrying a gun. His reply reminds us of Caesar’s final words as Brutus stabs him.

The conversation continues as they find anther place to hide.

 

 

“Amjad: Because your Aparna is dead?
Saket: She was killed! Like countless Hindu men, women and children! By Muslims.
Amjad: So you are here as a representative of your religion? Do you remember my father? He didn’t die on his own. The Hindus killed him!”

Hey RamThey get behind a ruined crate to hide again and the conversation intensifies. Both Amjad and Saket become representatives and symbols of their religion as they talk.

 

 

“Saket: Enough! Just go away. Get out! Out of our sight!
Amjad: Go away? Where?
Saket: To your Jinnah’s Pakistan.
Amjad: Jinnah’s daughter considered India as her own country, and stayed back. I am Gandhi’s son. I have decided to stay here.
Saket: Decided? With whose permission?
Amjad: I don’t need anyone’s permission to live in my own country!
Saket: Your country? You foreigners walked across the Khyber and ruled us for 700 years!
Amjad: I was not born then. I belong to your times. Many came from the Khyber. Why pick on me? You call me a Foreigner! Aren’t you also a foreigner?
Amjad: Some say that your Lord Ram came across the Khyber.
Saket: Don’t you dare mention my Ram’s name!
Amjad: If not your Ram, O.K., Can I talk about my Ram? What’s happened to you?”

Hey RamSaket mentions that Muslims have settled in India because of the Mughals who had invaded India through the Khyber Pass while Amjad mentions the theory that Rama is actually an Aryan who has his origins in Europe. Both of them get enraged by these comments. Additionally, Amjad mentions that he (Muslims) is Gandhi’s son and very much Indian. He is shattered to see his friend being turned into this animal. He had always seen Saket to be a very calm and peaceful person. He asks him why he had turned like this,

“Amjad: Am I not your brother? At least, am I not your friend?
Saket: That’s just why you are still alive. Leave before I change my mind. Now.
Amjad: Everything was peaceful for a few days, thanks to Gandhi. See what you started!
Saket: You started it. You people killed Aparna!
Amjad: All Right. I will put an end to it too.”

Amjad kneels before Saket and asks him:

“Forgive me for killing your Aparna. I forgive you for killing my father. Now will you accept me as your brother, Ram?”

Hey RamThe camera is high above Saket’s head denoting his dominance and majority and Amjad’s pleading position and minority. This scene where Amjad asks Saket to be accepted as his brother carries a lot of weight in the film and gives out multiple meanings. As Saket and Amjad have become representatives of their religion during the conversation, this plea by Amjad acts as a plea by the minority Muslims to become brothers with the Majority Hindus. Hence the camera raised angle over Saket’s head. Additionally, it is a plea from a single man, Amjad, a simple one, who has lost his beloved friend and wants to get him back. He requests Saket, straight from the heart, to accept him as his brother. Even though they are born to different mother(land)s (Amjad was born in now-Pakistan whereas Saket was born in now-India), they have been raised by a single undivided mother – the pre-independent India. This again takes off from the conversation between Amjad and Mr. Bright during the Karachi party where Amjad says that Saket and he are from the same alma mater.

Saket turns down the plea. Amjad continues:

“Very well, then. Shoot. I’ll give you the pleasure of killing Muslim. And once you are done, cleanse your heart of the hatred. Let my death save you from this madness. Somebody will have to put a full stop to this.”

Though he does not show it outwardly, Saket is immensely moved by this statement. He says that he is not here to kill Amjad, but the cause of all this – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Amjad is surprised at this and informs Saket that Gandhi is the only sanity in the country. If not for Gandhi, whatever peace is being maintained couldn’t have been possible. Just then he hears a gunshot nearby and tries to check out what it is. Saket senses that it is not the Muslim group but a Hindu group with weapons, which was called by Govardhan.

Hey RamSaket asks Amjad to hide immediately. The roles of the saved and the saviour are reversed now. It is Saket, now, who is trying to save Amjad from a fanatic group. Amjad realizes that Saket indeed wants Amjad alive and says that Hindus and Muslims can be brothers if they try, like Gandhiji says. Saket drags Amjad to safety as the fanatics follow. He even hits Amjad to make him quiet and orders him to go into the hiding place he has pointed to. But this is all an act of kindness and possessiveness, like the one between two siblings. Amjad reminds Saket that if anything happens to him, he should take care of Nafisa, their sister. Saket is moved and asks him to hide.

Hey RamThe fanatic group led by Chari arrives along with Govardhan. They ask Saket to point the way to the factory which contains a lot of Muslims with weapons. He says they want to attack the soda factory so that they can equip themselves with rifles instead of traditional swords and axes. Amjad is shocked to hear this and comes out in to clarify that there are no weapons in the factory, just some old men, women and children. He also offers them to show them the place where guns are there. Saket is surprised and speechless but musters some courage to say something to defend Amjad. Note the frame composition here. The misé-en-scene is strikingly similar to the scene where Amjad defends Saket, with the defended on one side and the fanatic group on the other and the defender in between.

“Saket: He is my brother. Bharat, that’s his name. He’s madly in love with a Muslim girl, Nafisa. He is mentally ill. You are mad. Ever since, he has been dressing up like this. I came to stop him before he converts to Islam in this madness. Come home, Bharat”

Yet again, the Ramayana track being emphasized. Bharat, in Ramayana, was Rama’s half brother. Rama was born to Kaushalya and Bharat was born to Kaikeyi. Even though they were born to different mothers they were the closes than two brothers ever will be. Similarly, in spite of Saket and Amjad being born to different mother(land)s, they are very close and will give their lives for each other.

Amjad turns down Saket’s offer to defend him, in the same way Saket had turned his offer of defense in the soda factory, again highlighting the reversal of roles. He decides to reveal the truth to the gang. He steps to the centre, with chest held high and says

“I am Ram’s brother all right. But not Bharat. My name is Amjad Ali Khan. And if you want, you can add a Bahadur.”

Hey RamThe “Bahadur” indicating his bravery too. He knows that Saket has always accepted him as his brother. Just as he finishes, he is knocked down from behind with a hammer. Saket is mad and shoots the guy who knocked Amjad down. As Chari comes forward to attack Saket he shoots at him, killing him and Govardhan. The rest of the crowd, scared, runs off.

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