Those who depart
from this world without
knowing who they
are or what they truly
desire have no freedom here or hereafter.
But those who
leave here knowing who they
are and what they
truly desire have freedom
in this world and in the next.
The malayalam film Ozhimuri
(Document of Separation) is loaded with references and often times direct
constructs from Vedic literature that there is no mistaking of Jeyamohan's script
and dialogues for its deep roots in ancient wisdom. When you have more than
seventy years of human lives to cover in the span of a film, the weighty themes
from eastern thought if handled well can lend a certain aura to the overall
impact. The director Madhupal, despite the handicap of budget and visible pangs of growth as
a craftsman and artist has done more than adequate justice to the film.
playing protagonists - there are three of them - have taken the film to a level
where a discerning viewer is subjected to an experience that
only true art can impart. While the movie's subtext is firmly planted on a
specific culture (South Travancore) which in turn shifts into another, you take away the universal
values applicable to each one of us one way or another. It’s been
a long while since I have seen anything like this after the exit of Aravindan who
had a clear and keen understanding of the timeless genius of Vedic wisdom.
The plot is
outwardly linear which revolves around a divorce petition filed by an elderly
couple (ThanuPillai and Meenakshi Pillai) who lived most of their lives together
in an old world that no longer exists. Their land belonged to the erstwhile
princely state of Travancore which had a monarchic and matrilineal culture that
thrived for centuries. It is important to note that the common people genuinely
liked their kings and were fiercely loyal. Contrast that with emergence of male dominant
culture and the division of the land between two post independent states where
Tamil became the language of the ruling class. Insights on the impact of geopolitical
shifts on common man in and of itself are an interesting premise of this movie.
unfolds from the perspective of the couple's son, SarathChandran who reasonably
believes in his mother's cause to get the document of separation from the civil
court. He believes that after enduring a lifetime of torture and abuse from her
husband, she needs respite. He has also been a victim of excessive punishment. He thinks domestic violence is a norm in most homes than an exception.
He is sought out by a
young lawyer Bala who took it upon herself to convince him of the futility of
going through court processes, not to mention being the butt of ridicule since
they will be asked uncomfortable questions of their marriage at this point of
their life. He still thinks it is worth all the trouble.
The story takes
off from that point onward. In the true tradition of Gargi, Bala challenges
Sarath on his perceptions and interpretation of the events leading up to the
divorce petition. She also prods him to look deeper into him and watch his own
thought processes and reflect on his destiny that if he stayed the course, he could
very well end up like his father whom he detests. She quotes Yaksha Prashna
which posed the question "what is man's self?" which essentially
is a quest for immortal self and is attained through progeny.
Bala plays the
role of a mentor - Guru to help Sarath dig deeper into the psyche of his parents
and ancestors, offers alternative point of views and plausible reasons
behind the choices they made at various junctures of their lives. Bala's mother
has also been a victim of domestic abuse. In a funny revelation Bala talks
about her father having been chased by Sarath's imposing father, took his anger upon the hapless wife at home.
The movie however
is about Thanu Pillai, Meenakshi Pillai and the matriarch Kali Pillai - the
fiery mother of a feuding son.
Kalipillai is the
product of a culture that put women at the center of social and economic life
existed for a long time. She stood up to symbols of power (She convinces a cop
to reprimand her tenant), attacked threats (tenant), ran household on her own,
spoke of women's strength and stature. She had had visitors who were artists and
scholars. She chose her partners whom she divorced since the society and law
stood behind women. She didn't approve of her son's choice of bride at first.
The women however got close and genuinely cared for each other even as the self-destructive
feud between Kalipillai and her son took to the worse. By the time they could
relent on the ego war a wee bit, Kalippillai was at the brink of death.
There is a
remarkable and haunting scene in the movie when the morbid Kalipillai sleepwalks
out of deathbed past her reproachful son, stagger into the street to her
death. On her way out she accuses the daughter in law of causing the rift between
the mother and son although the opposite was true. Their feud goes way back and
Kalipillai routinely warned her daughter in law of being soft and complicit in
her own abuse.
father Sivan Pillai was a wrestler who got the long hand of matrilineal system
when he was fancied once and discarded by Kali Pillai, not before making
Thanupillai a rebel and abusive misogynist. He married Meenakshi Pillai from a
poor non-matrilineal family out of his choice who was to pay for the perceived wrongs
and sleights of assertive women around him represented by his mother. As we get
a closer look at his life, we learn about the childhood Thanupillai spent in fear
and loss of his father in traumatic condition, according to him caused by the
powerful women around him. We also learn later about his commitment towards fatherhood
In the end he is condemned to wallow in the dark of his monstrous ego as he too accused
Meenakshi Pillai to have caused the rift between him and his mother after spending a lifetime clashing with her. But he is
given a chance at redemption as his son with the help of Bala draws himself towards him spiritually to bring peace to a lifetime spent in torments and fits of fury.
is the transformative character in the movie to grow from a frail and helpless
victim of domestic abuse into a liberated human being during the span of the
film. As we learn more about the seemingly tragic and unfortunate choices she
made at various junctures of her life, we are allowed to see her perspectives
on the events which we only had a partial view till then. We learn that she
took the best of the choices she had and her priority was revealed to be her
son who struggled to stay healthy during most of his childhood.
realized the folly of being dependent of her brother and the fierce commitment
of her husband as a father to her child. She tried to broker peace between the
husband and his mother without success. She learnt quite a bit about being
fearless and independent from her mother in law too. But when
Thanupillai anticipating his death asked her to reveal what she told his mother
that forced her to leave them to die in the street, she realized the
unworthiness of being in a relationship steeped in ignorant clashes of
delusional ego. Instead of protesting her innocence, she decided to liberate
herself and asked for Ozhimuri.
You can hear the
echo of Chandokya Upanishad as Meenkashi Pillai comes to the foreground of the
screen to have a look at you. You know it’s time to untangle your life for your
Chandokya Upanishad: wiki reference
Gargi: wiki reference
YakshaPrashna : wiki reference