Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Rat Trap ( Elipathayam ) 1981

*Adoor Gopalakrishnan*Kerala*115 minutes*

Another great film from this director, whose designation as Ray's successor is not without logic. This is the second of his films I have seen. Just as Ray breathes the poetry of the camera into the landscape ( urban and rural ) of Bengal so does Adoor  gather the sounds and sights of rural Kerala for an unforgettable experience of cinema. One of those few movies about India which capture it's heart and essence. There seems nothing in Hindi ( apart from Ray's one foray ) reaching this level-- Benegal would be the closest. Nothing trivially arty here--this is unmistakeably the real thing.

Landlord Unni lives with his two sisters ( the college going Sridevi and the thirtyish Rajamma ). Another eldest married sister comes visiting . Amidst scenes of agricultural activity set in rural Kerala of the 1920s, the family live out a slow repetitive rhythm of life. The rat-trap is the way of life and the family members are the rats. Unni is masterfully etched by K J Nair. He is a man hopelessly dependant for the smallest thing on his sisters. All he does is to have oil  massages and hot water baths. He is brought up in a way of life where he has to do nothing but to be fed and clothed and served from morning to evening--dependant for his tiniest needs on the people around him, like a grand vegetable.Once he ventures out to attend a marriage but returns half way rather than cross the puddles of water. Naturally, when circumstances remove these serving men and women from his environment, he is like a trapped mouse, rushing helplessly within the confines of his trap.

There is virtually no music but the scenes of domestic and village life are punctuated by natural sounds like creaking doors, the swish of a scythe removing coconuts from branches, water being drawn from the well, and the music of the Malayalam tongue, which echoes the verdure and the sounds of swiftly moving water.

Surely one for the annals of cinema.


Ronak M Soni said...

This one's down at no. 11. And Pather Panchali gets a double role, because it's so good.

S M Rana said...

@ Ronak

Thanks for the link. It provides an inviting vista to explore.

A great Indian film outshines a great international one any day because the subtleties of culture and language come across so much forcefully. But in the present day, the world is one,s backyard, and one better know it as one can.