Saw the Malayalam movie ‘Trivandrum Lodge’ recently. Released in 2012, the movie is believed to have raked in more than 4 crores at the box office. It is directed by V K Prakash and written by Anoop Menon, who is the current favourite of the Malayalam movie industry.
The movie turned out to be a surprise in content and presentation as it defied (well…almost) the norms of a typical Malayalam movie. As the title suggests, the movie is about the inmates of an old, obscure lodge but located at Kochi. The lodge is owned by Ravi Shankar, a rich widower with a young son. Into this dishevelled corner, enters Dhwani, an educated and sophisticated writer-artist. She is young and divorced – enough reasons to make the men drool over her.
The movie cannot be termed a classic but can’t either be categorised as ordinary. I liked the film for one main reason – it did not harp on a moral tale of rights and wrongs and instead chose to break away from clichés. It allowed its characters to be the way they are and let them continue their life as they have till now. No reformation or change of heart here.
The ‘heroine’ of the film if you can call the leading lady thus, is not the usual demure, sari-clad and ‘lady like’ nayika. And yes, she also wears spectacles, yet seemed desirable to men. She also did not seem to be heart-broken or shattered at the thought of a divorce. Instead she longed to celebrate her divorce by ‘fornicating with abundance’. A new word for the average Malayali audience and a new step for Malayalam cinema!
The second female character is Kanyaka (irony at its best!), a sex worker. As the usual circumstance of most of such women, Kanyaka is from a poor family, with an ailing husband to fend for. Yet, she never once seems to be sorrowful or repenting but has a zest for life. She probably, knows, that the moral curtains that the society tends to put on her are all false and that the moralistic society is indulging in far bigger hatred crimes. She is after all, only spreading love and solace.
The third female character, Malavika, does not exist physically in the world but lives on in her husband Ravi Shankar’s memory. Ravi with his vast wealth and youth, has many options before him but he chooses to remain a celibate for he feels the high of being a ‘one woman-man’ is more than any other seduction or relationships.
The fourth female is Zarina, Dhwani’s friend. She is an educated woman and happily married to a fish trader, who is not much educated and speaks in the typical fishermen’s slang. She has no qualms in admitting that it was her decision to marry a man with less intellectual, for he won’t then be a big bother to her life. She declares that he is ‘good in bed’. Her husband too has no issues in sharing a drink with his wife.
The fifth character is a little girl, Amala, learning piano and with whom the young son of Ravi Shankar falls in love.
Male characters are many with varied traits. Abdu is an orphan and a dumb fellow, who looks at women sexually. He is addicted to the thought and is longing for a woman. Yet, he refuses to sleep with Kanyaka when he sees her bed-ridden husband at her home.
Then there is Shibu who writes for a small film publication. He lures wannabe female starlets by promising them roles in films. Then there is a senior citizen, who boasts of having slept with 999 women and is waiting for a very special woman to be the 1000th. Yet, when Dhwani asks him if she could be the 1000th, he is too shy to revert.
The film had many of its moments. Ravi Shankar’s father refuses to share the riches of his son because he believes his wife (Ravi’s mother) had earned it by her immoral activities. He calls her a prostitute but the son laughs it off saying that he would rather call her a female Casanova. Yet again, the film breaks a gender stereotype, where a mother is supposed to be goddess like. You see a son who is quite unaffected by the fact that his mother indeed had many lovers. He seems to accept that his mother too is human and has feelings and aspirations as any other. His father, who detests the wealth accumulated by his wife, does not show any inhibition to keep the original ownership papers of Trivandrum Lodge for he wants it as a last resort, if his son throws him out. That means he will hate his wife and will stick to his principles but only as per his convenience.