varnachitram

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Urumi and Comment of the week

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Reader Unnikrishnan Nair, posted this as a comment. We thought that the comment has some wonderful insights and should end up as a post than a comment.

Saw Urumi on last Thursday @ Q Cinemas Kochi… Beleive me, it has to be seen in a theater that has this good sound effects and digital screening abilities to enjoy it to the hilt!! It shows that there is atleast one star (I dont want to create another argument here in the comments by calling Prithvi a superstar and the fans of M&M questioning that) is there in Malayalam who cares about scripts and screenplays. (Though his movie selections like Thriller make us doubt it!! 😉 )

Coming to the movie it was a visual extravaganza created by best cinematographer in India Santhosh Sivan (only second to PC Sreeram, according to me).. The acting in the movie was top-class. Though there may be detractors calling Prithvi was a tad wooden, I believe it is his character that warranted that.. That said, Prabudeva, Genelia, Jagathy & Amol Gupte were marvellous.. Genelia rocked the scenes she was on the screen and she is unlike anything the Genelia, that a regular film goer knows. I have to applaud Santhosh sivan to have identified that seething tigress Arackal Ayesha, in the usually chirpy Genelia.. I doubt she will ever get a role like this even in the future.. But for sure, she can rest now doing crappy running-around-the-woods kind-of-heroine roles for the rest of her life with the satisfaction of having done some real acting!!

In most of the reviews, mentioned here as well as the ones that has not made into this site, have not done justice to one of the characters and the actor who performed the role – Chirakkal Thamburan performed by Amol.. He was in a single word fabulous.. He shows how one should act.. There is not a single scene where U feel that he is a non mallu acting in a period mallu film.. Even in the scenes where he has nothing much to talk, he shows great acting. I believe he has taken pains to understand each and every scene, every dialog that is being uttered by whoever is there in the screen and seem to have discussed with the director and clearly understood what his reaction should be for every second!! He gets his chance with some choiciest dialogs that bring applauses and laughter from the audience..

The only thing I felt odd in this movie was the flirty nature of the character Chirackal Bala played by Nithya Menon.. An acid-tongued princess who is bold enough to challenge her attackers and strong enough to voice her opinions in the royal court on one hand and flirting with Prabudeva like a dumb-blond on the other doesnt gel well. And the Makom character played by Vidya Balan, I am sorry I couldn’t understand why she is there in the story… I felt it was one thing that stuck out like a sore thumb.

That said, I gotta appreciate Santhosh Sivan for not falling into the charms of CGI for the war sequences. It was easy to fall for, but resisting all that and shooting the climax fight sequences naturally with the available resources is really appreciable…

Finally to all who have been enjoying the likes of mindless masala movies like Pokkiri Raja, Christian Brothers and August 15, go watch this movie to refresh urself!!!

12 Comments

  1. The character of Nitya was an half baked one..and yes,amol gupte was nice…btw q cinemas is a very good multiplex,it’s far better than cinemax at oberon mall…me too watched t from q cinemas and the sound system is quite good..

  2. U mentioned about Vidya Balans Charcter!!it is one imaginary charcter which we usually call as ‘presence of god..i want u to search about the Delphi Oracle in Greek Mythoology..it is the major place of worship or Appolo…

  3. Vidya Balan’s character can be looked at as a so-called divine intervention, that is many a times used in films as devices to take the movie forward. It can be looked at as a part of the journey of the hero (ref: Jospeh Campbell) where he may come across oracles of sort that remind him the hero’s purpose and his journey. In the Matrix, the character of oracle is a much more fleshed out example (even though they take that character much further in Matrix 2 & 3). Those characters usually come either for the ‘initiation’ of the hero’s journey or later at important turning points where one decision gone wrong can change the entire story.

  4. Yes, have to agree with Lee. Even though I haven’t seen the film, I can guess Vidhya Balan’s character is a sort of a “oracle” character. It’s basically a stock character.

  5. Movie for people who love history , different cinema , the valour of kelu , the barbarism of Vasco ( never new this before ), the understanding of great feale warriors of kerala , kelu – valavan friendship , drawing a parallel between land grabbers then and today …

    gives me a feeling we must do away with anything that identfies colonial rule.

    Why does a barbaric man like Vasco have a Church in Kochi on his name … and a town in Goa.

    Anyways movie is worth a watch !

    • Dear Vinod,

      History and life is always with the conquerors, not losers. Though there is no doubt the Portuguese were more cruel than any other colonial forces (the very reason why India was forced to use Military to annex Portuguese Goa), still some of actions may appear cruel to us considering modern sensibilities, which may not be as cruel in those times.

      For example, cutting tongue and ear was a common form of punishment against enemy in those times which may appear cruel in today. Our own Velu Thampi Dalawa (Prime Minister of Travancore) used to cut ears and thumbs as a legal punishment. Even today Saudi which follows 13th century laws have cutting arms or fingers as a legal form of punishment, though modern sensibilities donot adhere to it.

      One thing which we must note, in movies there is a clear methodology of hiding wrongdoings of heroes and over-focusing on villian’s actions to create negativism around villans. We all saw Vasco burning down the ship, but why no one enquired why did he do so? Its not his hobby to burn ships….. In 1500, Arab and Muslim traders of Kozhikode burned down a Portuguese factory legally established by Zamorin’s decree killing more than 1000 (our historians say 100, whereas Portuguese historians says 1000) Portuguese citizens and slaughtered their women and children.

      It was against this action, Vasco was dispatched to take action Zamorin. Vasco’s predecessor Cabral waited for 2 days to get legal remedies done from Zamorin to bring rioters in front of justice, which didn’t happen. So it was an indication that Zamorin himself aligned to rioter’s action.

      Again when Vasco reached Kozhikode in 1502, he hijacked the pilgrim ship, only to bring Zamorin on negotiating table. If Zamorin was serious, he would have either seek option of a Commando operation using Malabar Pathemaris Forces or atleast agreed tactically to Portuguese terms to secure release of Pilgrims. Instead of that, after 2 or 3 days of waiting, he send his priest to negotiations, which irked Vasco who was waiting for Zamorin himself.

      Though I donot adhere to Vasco’s demands and align myself towards Zamorin’s free market policy, still in an event of a hijack, we are forced to secure release of victims fast, than policies. Imagine in 1999 when our IC 814 flight was hijacked to Kandahar, if hijackers were kept for waiting for 5 or 10 days without any negotitation attempt and finally on 10th day if we send an ordinary official to negotiate, naturally hijackers would get irked. Instead we send our Foreign minister on day one itself who has some authority to discuss. Zamorin didn’t do so, hence the issue went out of proportion.

      The movie portrayed just one side, without portray the Portuguese massacre of 1500. Just like telling US attacked innocent Afghans who did noting against former, whereas in reality, US was forced to invade only because Afghans bombed WTC. History is always repeating. We trend to forget one action and accuses its counter action to suit our tastes and interests. Perhaps in Taliban text books it would portray US as invaders in a peaceloving nation. The same is what we see in movies.

      Remember, there can’t be a reaction without an action.

      I say all these, in strong emphasis that I don’t support what Portuguese did…. However its not nice to be carried away by one sided thoughts. We should appreciate their contributions to our society (atleast to the billion worth Cashew industry which Kerala has) while criticizing against their barbarism.

  6. See, there are several historical pitfalls as deep as a bore, which any history knowing person will understand. The advantage Urumi has is that, 99% of Malayalees donot know our own history, atleast pre-1857, whereas most of them study and learn about Mughal and Rajput histories….. Even our own state curriculum donot teaches where is Kolathanadu and Arakkal and its relation with Samoothiri….

    Let me tell, there is a big mistake in first few scenes…. Chirakkal is just a place or city that used to be capital of Kolathunadu Kingdom and until arrival of Dutch in 17th century, people used to refer the term Kolathiri instead of Chirakkal. In opening scene, we are shown Arya as Chirakkal Kotuval. But the script didn’t explain the relation between Chirakkal Kotuval and Kolathiri Royal family. As a result, the question whether Kelu Nayanar is part of Kolathiri family is unanswered. In first few scenes, we are made to understand that Krishnadas, the character Prithiviraj plays as modern is of royal heir and hence one needs to believe Kelu Nayanar was part of Kolathiri dynasty. However how can a- “Nayanar” (NAIR for Malabar area) become part of famous Mooshika Kshyatriya dynasty of Kolathiri. As per Nair traditions, its Marumakathayam, which means caste has to be inherited from Mother, not father. If Kelu Nayanar is from Chirakkal Royal House, naturally Krishnadas won’t be a heir today, as per Maternal law of Kerala, its nephews who inherit, not children.

    Secondly the ship burning incident is from real incident when Vasco Da Gama came in 1502 as revenge against Zamorin (Samoothiri) for burning down Portuguese factory in Kozhikode killing 1500 Portuguese people. The ship Miri was bound to Calicut and it was hijacked near Kozhikode Beach to bring Samoothiri to negotiating table. So from where Kotuval of Chirakkal comes into picture. The script writer doesn’t appreciate the 100 km distance between Chirakkal and Kozhikode nor justify the amazing power of Kotuval to fly from Kannur to Kozhikode to attack Gama’s ship.

    Throughout the history of Kerala, Kolathiri was the most powerful ally of Portuguese, after Kochi. Even in 1502 when Gama came to attack Kozhikode, he first visited Kolathunadu and signed in treaty to establish the Kannur Factory (the modern St.Angelo’s fort). So how in the movie, Chirakkal shown in odds with Portuguese. It was only by late 16th century, Kolathiri turned against Portuguese when Chirakkal and Kozhikode signed in peace treaty.

    The surprising factor is that Arakkal kingdom has never been odds with Kolathiri in its 5 century long history. Perhaps, it was the Kolathiri himself, who created Arrakkal kingdom to allow his daughter who was married to Muslim to enjoy regal status. Ever since that, two royal families were in strong relations to each other and for several age old customs, members of both families has to jointly perform. Kolathiri family considers Arrakkal as its 3rd branch as the dynasty has 5 branches. So how come they shown as bitter enemies?

    Likewise, the scriptwriters weren’t much aware of that, Guns and cannons were part of Kerala even when Portuguese first came to Kozhikode in 1498. Guns and cannons were introduced to Kerala, through Arab traders and Chinese. However the difference was, we had gun technology of 13th or 14th century even in 16th century as most of rulers didn’t invest much in improving new gunpowder technology. Rather focus and attention was developing on Kalaripayittu… In the movie, we are made to believe, Chirakkal Princess doesn’t know what to say for Gun and calls it as Thee Thuppi…. Whereas the word Pirangi and Thokku etc were much in Malayalam dictionary even in 14th century. So why to use the word Thuppakki? In 1502, Zamorins had fired more than 1200 cannons against Portuguese ships. However the Portuguese had better range, more firing power and manuveourability which our cannons didn’t have that time.

    The movie had several other issues too apart of these historical mistakes. Many people donot exactly understand what is intended. For example, how many people can understand Perumpadappu means? When Estvo Da Gama was arrested, Jagathy says that immediately we must send an emissary to Perumpadappu… Its nothing but Kochi, as it was old name of Kochi Kingdom (just like Chirakkal- the capital of Kolathunadu Kingdom, Kochi was capital of Perumpadappu Swaroopam). Kochi that time was capital of Portuguese Indies.

    There are some other issues too… 1524 the third visit of Vasco-Da Gama, he didn’t visit Kolathanadu as shown in the movie. In 1515 Goa became the capital of Portuguese India and most of Portuguese viceroys started visiting and living in Goa. Kochi was their second capital and hence several factors and agents visit there. In 1524’s Gama’s visit, he first settled in Goa and later thought to visit Kochi as invited by Kochi King. Gama reached KOCHI in Dec 23rd 1524 and died on next day due to Malaria. Vasco Da Gama was so fragile by 1524, that one blow from a person like Kelu Nayar’s kind of person would kill him. Yet we were shown that Vasco fighting with a powerful hunk like Kelu in full vigor. And the story is not clear whether he killed or not…..

    And thanks for Sankar Ramakrishnan, that atleast thro’ his movie, he made Vasco’s second son Estave Da Gama to visit Kerala, a dream which Estave couldn’t accomplish during his lifetime as he was busy establishing African provinces of Portuguese and Homzur straits.

  7. vidya bala’s role is that of an oracle – common in folktales. whether it is relevant or not, am no sure. but it sure did add spectacle to the movie.
    regarding chirakkal bala-i see no discrepancy. it takes real guts to flirt – especially with someone below her station who belongs to another community.only a devil may care attitude will give a princess courage to do that.

    • @ Kochuthresiamma, See, in those days Muslim men are treated on equal ranks of a Nair Men. Casteism was more prevelent within Hindu community whereas not among other communities. For example, Kochi Raja himself married Villarvattom Princess Mariam (The Udayamperoor Swaroopam) which was the only Christian Kingdom of India in order to absorb Udayamperoor into Kochi Kingdom.

      Bala’s character was a subtly reference to Chirakkal’s own history where Kolathiri Princess marrying a Muslim commoner and the Raja himself created Kerala’s only Muslim Dynasty- the Arakkal Ali Rajas and Beevis.

      Its only today, we find inter-caste marriages, making a big havoc. In those, due to Marumakkatyam traditions, ladies have more say and powers in society as most of the properties are in lady’s name, not gents. Moreover, other than by an act of conversion, marriages with other caste men makes no major difference, as caste is always determined thro’ caste of mother, irrespective of its father or paternal legacy. Hence even if a Hindu princess dates with a Muslim man, it won’t be a problem in society, unless she wishes to convert to Islam.

  8. What I find positive in the movie

    1. Jagathy’s character which has been aptly characterised with a suitable historical accuracies (The scriptwriter knowing or unknowing was subtly referring to Thriumpara Nair of Kochi, who was kidnapped to Lisbon from Kochi, only to return back as Portuguese agent of Kochi)

    2. Princess Bala, especially Nitya Menon’s wonderful acting ability which was real treat

    3. The biggest suprise for me was Genalia who was a revelation in every way. Perhaps, Arakkal Ayesha is more of a Muslim folklore like Unniarcha in Malabar areas, but Genalia brought a strong life to that character which is least known outside Malabar…..

    4. Prabhudeva was really good in his performance as a Vavali and did his character and acting well.

    5. Amol Gupta is a role model for all Mallus who take pride in posing as non-mallus, to understand how nicely a Non-Mallu can act and behave as prefectly as Malayalee. His acting and style was so prefect as Kolathiri Raja who were known for their humour sense in history.

    The cons of the movie who requires an urgent introspection

    1. Prithiviraj- Known for his ability to express emotions just through eyes, in this movie, he miserably failed to express right emotion required for the character required. His face was full of sober where revenge was supposed to fill in. In many places, one can feel sense of over-jada of real life Prithiviraj coming into skin of Kelu Nayars. Secondly his focus was on body, not character. Typically a Kerala Nair warriors are never known for Greek God kind of body. I am sure, with that kind of Muscle man physique, Kelu Nair never could do his Kalaripayittu properly, as the art requires extreme body flexibility, not a six pack body and thick biceps which restricts body flexibility.

    Kannur school of Kalari is known for its 19th step (Koozhikadakkan) and a greek hunk kind of physique can never ever perform that complex steps at all.

    And as usual Prithivraj overacts in his modern character because of comedy.

    2. Bhanu Vikraman- The guy who played the character of Chirakkal Bhanu Vikraman is really not fit for the role, be in terms of acting, or his body language or even intentions….

    People like Vidya Balan and Tabu was completely wasted in the movie

  9. Very good analysis from Arun Mohan.

    Also agree that our malayali’s know very little history of our own state. we do know about mughals and rajputs though. I guess the average tamilian may have more knowledge of his history – silappathikaram, temple histories etc

  10. It is very easily said ‘History repeats’! True it is repeated. The atrocity of christianity over others repeats, even today. Terrorism is a synonym for certain religious sect at present. But nobody talks about the real terrorists who get religious decrees from their ‘Apostolic Authority’.
    Arun says, Afghans did the work on WTC and they got the punishment. Everyone know that how treacherously US and its CIA plotting against other nations. There is a theory that 9/11 was created by CIA itself to take over the oil fields of Afghanistan. If you are keen against Muslims one can easily follow the
    preachings of Christian US, otherwise, if you have a straight heart, then you can see so much blasphemy in their words.

    Likewise, have you read what William Logan and others had written about Portuguese atrocities, after getting the permission from Pope to invade other nations and make Saracens, Pagans and all other enemies of Christ, to perpetual enslavement? You know what Cabral did before Gama’s second coming. He tried to take the trade power from Moors, when failed he attacked one of the Moorish vessel which was being loaded. That is why they got attacked. In retaliation, Logan itself says, Cabral kills around 600 people of calicut. It was not Moor’s hobby to kill portuguese too.
    How can one just say these kind of comments because he hates some people? See, faith, most of the times, comes as just inheritance. So, please verity what you have inherited, whether it is true or not. Don’t get carried over by the inherited faith.

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