Clara, Radha and Rathi; The 3 female film characters that in many ways define the perception of an average Malayalee male about the female of our species. For those late to the party or were living under a rock the last 30 years, they are characters from the movies Thuvanathumbikal and Rathinirvedam, both penned by the late Padmarajan. They are kind of the Delilah, Ruth and Jezebel of Malayalam popular culture. I have always wondered what would happen if we were to get all three into a room today and let them have a free ranging conversation.
Other characters who are referred to in the conversation:
a. Jayakrishnan – The tormented afflicted alpha male. The 80s Malayalee equivalent of metro sexual. Husband to Radha and one time patron of Clara
b. Moni Sir – The non-judgmental husband of Clara
c. Rishi – Archetype Malayalee male, Jayakrishnans friend and neighbor
d. Pappu – No not Rahul Gandhi, please! The forbidden fruit tasted by Rathi in Rathinirvedam
e. Thangal – Claras erstwhile pimp
So here goes! Late afternoon in Kochi, cafe by the beach. Raining!
Clara: Great to meet you both! Such a pleasure! Have heard a lot about your Rathi Chechy! Hows Jay, Radhakutty?
Radha: Jay is fine, thank you! We never met before but it is like I have known you my whole life! Jay talks about you all the time. Hows Moni Sir?
Clara: He is well Radhakutty. Ageing like vintage wine! He is something I tell you, my old young man! The same thing for me as well, though I haven’t met Jay since that day at the station, I think of all the conversations we had and you were a central figure in those conversations.
Rathi: Pleasure is all mine girls. Though I am kind of your senior so to speak, I have followed you guys since you both started trending at a time when the term itself did not exist! Serious! I am so proud of you both! Muah! Muah! (Air kissing)
Tell me Radhakutty, you said Jay cant stop talking about Clara. How do you deal with that?
Radha: Rathi Chechy, there are times when I wanted to use the ammi kall (mortar and pestle) to hit him on the head when he talked about her. Somewhere along the way I realized I was more angry at myself than him. I knew I am the one he loved, respected and wanted to spend his life with and she was the ultimate forbidden fruit! He is a typical Mallu boy, wanted the best of both worlds but also wise enough to understand that both were not possible. I was his everyday woman. Same religion, caste, educated to a level where he could still have an upper hand in conversation, completely acceptable to his family and society and I loved him. He also appreciated that I had an independent streak but conforming unlike Clara. Spark is all my misogynist Nair wanted, not an inferno, that’s what he would have got if he married Clara!
Clara: (Grinning like a Cheshire cat!) Radhakutty, that’s the exact reason I decided not to get hitched with him. He would have gotten bored off me soon enough. After the initial infatuation with a kind of female emancipation he had not seen or experienced before, mind blowing sex and fighting against everyone to get me accepted into the house hold, he wouldn’t know what to do. In many ways his infatuation for me was quite like that of a child given a new toy. Once the toy has been run in, there is no novelty. For Jay, I was a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma to quote the old fat bastard Churchill! I don’t think he ever understood why I decided to marry Moni. Moni was my anchor in the turbulent sea of emotions that I was in the time period between them. I mean I was doing fantastically well as an escort. Moni happened and I decided to turn exclusive and then he offered me respectability without judging me! A mature man who understood the world and was pragmatic! I will take experience any day over testosterone, boiling blood and Utopian love! Ayyo, sorry Rathi Chechy, was not meant as a dig at you!
Rathi: Hey….No issues Clara…..I understand exactly what you mean! Pappu was my tryst with destiny and experiment with truth rolled into one! The poor guy was exactly as you mentioned, all testosterone, boiling blood and instead of Utopian love, insatiable lust! I mean what can you expect from a 17 year old? He did what anybody his age would do…though bashful to start with, he at least opened up to me and I was OK to indulge him. I mean I did not personally think that I was committing a sin or anything, come on! Sheer indulgence of the plebeian kind! No love and lament, just lust and moan!
Radha: I envy you both, I really do!! I mean the experiences you have had, the find of freedom that you both have enjoyed, the fascinating journeys you have been on, the uninhibited promiscuity! God! I can feel my heart and my loins staging a dharna out of envy! The only man I have slept with had wet dreams thinking of Chechy during his teens and continues to pleasure himself I am sure thinking of Clara! We have great sex, don’t get me wrong and I consider myself a one man woman and no the vibrator does not count. I would have loved to experiment and we kind of did at the beginning. I will be honest Clara, we went and made out in all the places he took you to make out. It was my way of getting him to lose you in me. Obviously that did not happen, but he was a good sport. I mean he indulged my every whim and fancy. After sometime, the sex lost its charm, I mean it is just a release. The passion, the desperate gnawing pleasure of anticipation and the eruption, nope! Nada! Hasn’t happened in a while. What about you both?
Clara: My vintage wine is firing on all guns luv. I am not a one man woman and Moni knows that and neither is he a one woman man. Sexual fidelity is nothing more than a tool used by the patriarchal society for perpetuating misogyny. Our relation is based on respect and love and we are happy! I think Rathi Chechy is probably the best equipped to talk about this aspect. Chechy, your thoughts?
Rathi: I agree with Clara. During our time, which is the fag end of the matrilineal system, we had rights and were exercised them. Especially our right to choose who we slept with. Yeah, there were always issues from time immemorial on women exercising a free will specifically on this, but I can guarantee you that it was way better than now. Can you imagine the nonsense in today’ Kerala from Saritha and Shalu to Govindachamy, Hindu god men of all hues and colors, Mullahs and others in the mosques, Church priests using the confession to entrap and subjugate? Where the hell is place going?
We were given birth through the pen of one man and this thoughts but it resonated with a people who were so progressive in their thought and emancipated sexually, morally and intellectually. And now in just 30 something years we have plummeted down and regressed to a level where any female 8 days to 80 years is fair game for violation? The patriarchy that has set into our society is gnawing at the very roots of our freedom. That’s all what is left now, roots, everything else has been cut off!
If you were to ask me where is Pappu now, I don’t know and really don’t care. He has a life, I have mine. We moved on with our life. The bloody problem with the society today is that it does not allow you to move on.
Radha: I agree Chechy, even Jay a character born of the same pen shows some of the traits of that patriarchy though unintentionally I think. In many ways our progenitor was a man who was fighting the misogynist in himself while creating us, but had to give in at times.
Clara: Yes Radha Kutty, I remember thinking that Jay for all his liberal views had a feudal core. One that needed his word to be the last on any subject. He was taken aback that I had rejected his proposal and I think that kind of hurt his ego in some way. Thangal once told me that he was amazed that I told him that virginity is a big issue over a small tissue! That way my Moni is the most liberal man around! He has not been given enough credit unfortunately in the narrative built around us. I hope that changes and all folks try and live up to Moni rather than Jay.
Radha: Funny enough, I fell in love with him initially because of the macho image be portrayed. I couldn’t stand the overbearing feudal face he put on when he initially proposed to me and I said no. Perception changed when I started hearing tales about the liberal, heroic, macho city dweller alter ego from his college days.
Rathi: In many ways, the progressive narrative that we were part of does not exist today. It is indeed a sad reflection on our society. Art and Artistes reflect society they say!
Clara: It is not just art Chechy. Look around us….political discourse is at an all time low. Imagine a leader of the stature of Achu mama stoop down to make derogatory remarks about the Oomen Chandys daughter and that too on the assembly floor. A journalist honey trapping a minister, the press going around celebrating the porn clip CDs of Saritha, TV news debates where the language is so vitriolic and vituperative that I don’t allow my children to watch it anymore.
Rathi: Agree, Agree, stupid serials filled with women characters, sorry not characters because that needs them to have some character! I call them dumbed down version of humans. Moral policing is the norm and despite the fact that every malayalee felt that it was their God given right to interfere in the matters of their neighbors, we knew where to draw the line then. Now the line does not exist!
Radha: Tell me about it Chechy, just the other day, Rishis daughter was accosted by some louts when returning from college wearing a short skirt. Jay and Rishi of course went and put an end to it. The sad part was when they told her that she better not wear such skirts to college anymore. Look at the double standards from the same 2 guys every malayalee man looks up to as paragon of liberalism and champion of gender equality.
Clara: My personal take is that the two movies we have been lucky to be characters of have actually made life more difficult for women in general in Kerala. The result is the opposite of what it intended to do unfortunately. Look at the burning issue today of the actor being taken back into AMMA. I empathize with the womens association, but they should fight it differently. I am also glad that some of the guys have stood up and spoken out. Righteous indignation will not get them there. Check mate the bastards using the law. If any of them would have bothered to read the by laws of AMMA they would have realized that it is legally untenable to remove the actor the way he was removed. To start with I suggest they rename Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) to Association of Progressive Performing Artistes (APPA). In the patriarchal system, APPA will get the better of AMMA at some point!
Phone bells go off for all 3…..
Rathi: Bae is pinging me on Whatsapp! Got to go!!! Muah! Muah! Till next time!
Radha: Back to my boy and grind! Bye Girls!
Clara: Awesome catching up with you both! My toy boy awaits!