“There is a book launch today. Jayakumar sir is inaugurating the function. Do you want to come?”, Babu Ettan asked me over the phone.
Babu Ettan knew my weakness for Jayakumar sir.
“Jayakumar sir? Oh yes! I would love to come. But it may not be possible to speak to him, I guess. He may not have much time to spare”, I mused aloud.
“Come a little early. Perhaps you can catch him then”, Babu Ettan suggested.
“I doubt. All the same, I shall come”, I replied.
I like book launches. It is a place where you get to meet interesting people. People who have somehow preserved their ability to appreciate the gift of life. However, that wasn’t the case when I had attended book launches of English books in Kannur. The crowd is superfluous and elite; the discussion and interaction lacks passion and warmth; the conversations are centered around achievements and publicity. There is an air of superiority that most people carry, and they flaunt their literacy. The book launch of Malayalam books, in stark contrast, is a simple affair. I love the simplicity, modesty and warmth that characterizes these events. It is an intellectual environment where people discuss thoughts and ideas, rather than facts. People are more receptive. I feel at home; there is an Indian flavour to it. Perhaps it is the lack of the artificial formality that accounts for the Indian feel.There is mutual regard and respect, but there is no formality or prejudice. Everybody is treated equal, and the focus is on exchange of thoughts and ideas, sharing of experience, and learning. It is actually hard to leave because the discussions are so stimulating.
I was right about Jayakumar sir. He arrived just on time and I only had time to greet him as he walked to the dais. The speakers were listed on the invitation card. I noticed that one of them was film director M.A.Venu. The name rang a bell, but I couldn’t place it. I scanned the faces on the dais for any familiarity, but there was none, apart from Jayakumar sir. I wondered which of them was M.A.Venu.
Jayakumar sir’s speech was a show stealer, as always. This time, he spoke about why it was more difficult to write a short story than a novel. Writing a novel may be laborious, but to bring the vast canvas of life into the confines of a story, demanded a certain sensibility. He reflected on Guy de Maupassant’s story ‘The Necklace’, one of my personal favorites. He took us through the plot of the story in brief, emphasising on the climax that held the essence of the story. The story ended there, but refused to end in the mind of the reader. The story compels the reader to dwell upon the untold chapters in the central character’s life. And there lay its strength. Many unanswered questions linger in the mind. ‘What if….’
My mind wandered to films that ended on a similar note. While there are many films that end with a haunting climax, two films that instantly came to my mind were Meghamalhar and Chakoram.
Meghamalhar is the story of two childhood friends who rediscover each other by a strange coincidence of fate, but are compelled to go separate ways on account of their circumstances. The film raises many questions. What if they had resumed the friendship? If so, would it have complicated their lives? Why did they run into each other when they had to eventually separate? The film raises a scenario of conflict between the nature of worldly relationships and the philosophical nature of relationships that exist in our minds. Which is real? The film blurs the thin line between fact and fantasy.
Chakoram takes us through the fragile, but resilient character of a woman who has learned to don the masks that enable her to survive in an opportunistic world. Into her life walks the eccentric ‘Mukundan Menon’ who sees through her masks and melts away her defenses. Just as she dreams of giving a fresh start to her life in the comforting shade of his companionship, fate intervenes and Mukundan Menon is killed in an accident. The viewer is left pondering. Why did fate play such a cruel game on her? Why did fate tempt her at a juncture when she had learned to fight her battles alone? Why did fate take away her dreams before they could even blossom?
Little did I know that the man who had directed Chakoram was in that very hall…