Over the years, I have developed an extreme fascination towards psychology- towards getting into the minds of people…towards analyzing their behaviour….towards analyzing the peculiarities of my own behaviour and tracing it to a particular attribute of my past. This interest in the human mind has been chiefly sparked by two things- life and malayalam movies.
I sometimes wonder if any regional movies have provided us with the range and depth of characters as have malayalam movies. The proficiency with which each character is sketched in these movies is such a brilliant work of art that the line between movie and life disappears. This movie is a classical example of such a character sketch.
Sally and Nimmi- the 2 central characters of this movie have been deeply etched into my mind. Parental love and the security and protection that comes from it is vital to normal mental development of a child. Sally and Nimmi are two adolescent girls studying in a boarding school. Despite their strikingly different personalities, what binds them together into a deep-rooted relationship, is the background they come from. They are both offsprings from a loveless union. While the parents have moved on with their lives, the children have grown up in an unprotected environment where all they see around them is unhappiness, frustration, loneliness, hopelessness and hostility. Apart from the things money can buy, there is nothing positive in their environment. This commonality of their individual backgrounds forms the foundation for their inseparable relationship- a relationship where they understand each other perfectly through a language of unspoken words.
Quite naturally, both Sally and Nimmi have no expectations from society. Thus, they live regardless of society- of their peers and teachers, of the rules and regulations of their Catholic institution. They find pleasure in pranks and mischief. Consequently, they are the despair of their teachers.
Sally is extremely tomboyish in her ways and her mindset. The absence of a father-figure in her life might account for this almost gender-denial behaviour . She is fiercely independent and displays a degree of strength that is commendable. Her only weakness is the soft and vulnerable Nimmi, towards whom she is highly protective. Nimmi is more feminine in her ways and tastes. She is raised by her father and a step-mother. Emotional dependancy lies at the heart of Nimmi’s personality- there is a palpably infinite need for love and affection in her- a need that desires satiation. She looks up to Sally for everything. In fact, their relationship carries subtle tones of homosexuality, which could very well have such a psychological basis (I am not sure if Padmarajan intended this, but this is how I perceived it).
Padmarajan portrays these characters with so much sensitivity and understanding that we begin to love these social outcastes…we begin to feel deeply for them….quite contrary to the sentiments of their teachers in the movie.
Urvashi plays the ‘villain’. She is their class-teacher. She comes from a struggling background- her upbringing has taught her to understand the value of money and struggle, but her vision fails to see the emptiness in the lives of these two ‘rebels’. Consequently, her approach to their behaviour is criticism and punishment. She expresses hostility towards them because she fails to see beneath their external personalities, the trauma, scars and deprivations of their inner minds.
And thus, the antagonism between them eventually culminates in Sally and Nimmi absconding from school, in the setting of a picnic. Sally plans out their stay and finances and finds a temporary job for the two. Meanwhile, Urvashi is suspended and the girls rejoice at this news.
The story takes a turn with the entry of a new character enacted by Mohan Lal. In him, Nimmi finds emotional fulfilment. His personality seems to satiate the unfulfilled emotional need she has lived with all along. His presence makes her feel loved, protected and secure- a feeling she has craved for, all along. Unknowingly, she becomes emotionally dependent on him. He does not take her obsession towards him very seriously. He probably takes it as mere infatuation, which he believes would disappear in due course of time.
I shall not touch upon the individual sequence of events thereafter. But what is crucial is the haunting climax- a hallmark of Padmarajan’s movies. Just as the effect of Mohan Lal’s presence gives Nimmi the courage to set right her life, he announces his plans of marrying Urvashi. From the close awareness of the comfort of the shore, Nimmi’s mind moves back to the turbulent waves of the sea…and this time, into deep sea. She fails to contain the emotional havoc in her already shattered mind.
Sally and Nimmi are migratory birds. They do not have their own niche in society. So when circumstances become more hostile, they fly to newer places, in an eternal search for the ‘one safe place’. They fly on, but they never cry.
And on that night, the two finally find their ‘safe place’.
The climax brings out Sally’s extreme commitment to Nimmi.