I must have watched this movie over ten times in the last couple of weeks. Lohithadas’s characters have always been ingrained in the culture of Kerala. The simplicity and modesty that masks the profundity of their souls, the resilience that masks their vulnerability, their profound ability to love, masking the loveless void in their own lives….these aspects of his characters endeared them to us….made them immensely lovable. Though it is heartening to see the current malayalam movies redefining themselves from what they had stooped to, and raising the bar in terms of plots, acting skills and cinematography, the depth and diversity of characters and the richness of language is still lacking. Just as is the case with life in these times. After all, art mimics life. Lohithadas had that profound ability at introducing us to those beautiful characters that defined raw human nature, bringing to visibility its infinite layers beneath which a soul throbbed and gleamed in all its beauty.
Sudhakaran Nair is one such character. An ex-military jawan, who has injured his leg in a war and therefore limps as he walks, is the central character of this movie. His love for gardens is the backdrop of this movie.
Sudhakaran Nair’s love for gardens is a madness- a passion that defines his very existence. He puts his heart and soul into it, and creates a masterpiece of a garden, that is the talk of the village. It is a garden that has a soul- a soul in which Sudhakaran Nair perceives his own soul. The flowers in his garden are extensions of his soul, and he is immensely pained when the villagers steal his flowers or request him for flowers on the occasion of weddings and funerals. To him, the flower is rooted into its mother plant in an inseparable bonding- one that is painful to severe. But the children humour themselves by stealing flowers from his garden and mocking his limp.
To the simple minds of the village folk, Sudhakaran Nair’s passion is an eccentricity. And yet, the landscape of rural life accommodates this eccentricity with ease. The movie introduces us to the numerous characters who are an integral and inseparable part of his life, irrespective of the degree of intimacy. The invisible thread of emotions that bind human beings together into mutual interdependance, is portrayed with sensitivity. Lohithadas paints a picture of human sentiments, so real that it has not the slightest trait of sentimentality. To retain the sublime tone of human emotions- to say without really saying it, is an art, and our directors and story writers did it with brilliance in the past.
Sudhakaran Nair allows himself the liberty to express his anger when the children steal flowers, to express his hurt when his intimate friend brings up the insensitivity of his siblings, to express his dissent to his mother when she makes impulsive remarks, but to the old couple at Mullassery, he is always polite and respectful.
The movie introduces us to Ammu, the pampered grand daughter at Mullassery. Yet again, the character sketch is brilliant. Ammu- full of life, full of childish mischief and a bundle of pranks up her sleeve. It is evident that she is a pampered and spoilt brat. But Ammu surprises us eventually by revealing beneath her high-spiritedness a deep void that she tries to persistently fill. Ammu’s ability to perceive and comprehend is far ahead of her age, and her courage to stand by her beliefs and perspectives is commendable. Ammu finds in Sudhakaran Nair all the ingredients that fill the void in her life- a father’s affection, a brother’s companionship, a husband’s security and a lover’s playful innocence. She sees the goodness and richness of his soul that spills into his creation- his garden. His presence in her life gives her an unspoken reassurance that she has never felt before. The void in her life brings to light the abundance in Sudhakaran Nair’s personality. It is not his age or his limp or his eccentricity that she sees; she perceives the depth of his companionship, his ability to love and the goodness of his soul.
The plot revolves around how two people develop an intimate relationship, driven by a mutual need for warmth and companionship. Two souls who have silently endured pain over years, who have learnt to accept it, who have learnt to harness it deep within- where it wouldn’t throb visibly, are brought together by destiny. They recognize each other’s throbbing and allow it to surface.
The climax is the strength of the movie, for it leaves the deepest impact. While we witness the unfolding of a love that erases all questions of viability in our minds, Sudhakaran Nair surprises us by stepping back from the decision of marriage. Deep within, he fears that Ammu is too young and may outgrow this liking when she is older. There is this unanswered question in his mind and in our minds- Much as Ammu’s love is sincere and genuine at this point in time, will it exhaust itself as time goes by, and she comes in closer contact with the reality of his life and his imperfections? Will one void abate only to be replaced by another? The question lingers….without an answer.
My favourite dialogues from the movie:
” Nothing is ever a substitute for anything.”
Handing her a rose from his garden, he says, ” This is my soul. Preserve it. Like my life, the petals will wither away. But keep the memory- it will always be fragrant.”
“Each of our lives has a purpose. Perhaps, the purpose of my life is to tend to this garden. Perhaps the purpose of your life is to be happily married to that young doctor.”