Friday, April 07, 2006


In search of a Malayalee’s Identity.

Yesterday, as a part of Vishu celebrations in IIT,the movie Raappakal was screened in OAT. The storyline is the same old wine in the new bottle, albeit there are some serious questions raised about the present generation of malayalees. The movie portrays the life of a Thamburatti (equivalent to the queen in the olden times), who lives alone in a big Kovilakam (Palace). Her children are working at various places in India. Her daily activities are taken care by Mammootty, who is the caretaker of the family property. The Thamburatti is longing for the company of her kin, who are too busy to take care of her. One fine vacation,they get together at their native place, also called Tharavaadu in Malayalam. Everyone is happy and the whole bungalow is in a festive atmosphere.

The jocundity is overshadowed by anxiety and confusion when people realize the ulterior motive behind the get together, which is to divide the vast property among the younger generation. Once this is clear, there are a lot of scenes portraying the woes of the hapless mother, who is being silenced by her powerful and money minded sons and brother in laws. The property is split and the big palace is demolished and sold. Thamburatti is forced to move out to her son’s place, where, as usual, you could see a stereotypical daughter in law, the one that is seen quite often in the movies and serials. In the end, she runs away from them and decides to stay with the caretaker.

The topic seems to be exploited innumerous times. Despite this fact, its still selling! Surprising indeed. The movie is very ordinary, meant to capitalize on the nostalgic feelings of non resident keralites. One gets a feeling that the only reason behind the success of the movie is the dream run Mammooty is relishing these days. But if one look at the movie in a different perspective, one could observe a shocking reality, that the younger generation is no more interested in staying in Kerala! One could see most of them shifting to places such as Bangalore and Hyderabad for the rest of their lives! This poses a serious threat on the Kerala Culture and Heritage Values. Gone are the times when one would be staying back home, looking after the ancestral properties. More and more people who graduate are moving out. As a result, Kerala is a state with aging citizens whose kin is slogging and feeling nostalgic outside Kerala. (Courtesy: Silverine)

In the new age of global village, one could always argue that the telecommunication explosion has kept us updated about the God’s Own Country. Frankly speaking, these are just a superficial feeling, as most of us heavily bank on the TV Channels for this. The present day channels such as Asianet, Surya, Kiran, Asianet Plus and the other umpteen channels are more interested in serials and such masala stuff, which concentrates more on stories where one could see a woman being harasses day in day out. All these have a similar story line, where the heroine would have had a son before her marriage and this will be kept under cover, and then it will lead to a lot of complications in her married life, and there will be a villain who is trying to hoodwink her husband’s business properties. If you decide to see the comedy programmes for a change, you will be welcomed by a lanky imitating the mannerisms of an inebriated soul. To take over from there, there will be leader and his kids shouting at our CM and one Left Party leader who is a better mono act artist. One can see the untimely navarasas coming on to his face every now and then. Occasionally, during onam or vishu, one get to see good looking girls clad in pattu saree, and chatting (flirting?) in a cooked up accent of polished malayalam. This is not the Kerala that I know. Seriously! The Kerala I know contains straight forward people. Why should one try to cover up his/her mallu accent? And if you want to listen to hindi or english, there are better channels available. Asianet has cut down on its good programmes like Ente Keralam for the shows like Sthree Hrudayam or something like that. Its shocking! So where will a non resident busy keralite bank on for his Kerala? Dreams? It will work for the ones who were born and brought up in Kerala. How about the generations succeeding them? Aren’t their identities getting oblivious? Or am I getting paranoid here?

Talking about identity, in my case, I have never seen my Illam (another name for Tharavaadu). The only ways of visualizing my Illam is through the books and movies of M T and the occasional movies like Raappakal. Amongst my 14 paternal cousins, only 6 of them including me can read Malayalam! I have stayed all along in Kerala, before I moved to Chennai for undergraduation. Now it is highly unlikely that I will also settle in Kerala. So I might be the last person in my tree to know Malayalam! This is a startling fact.

Now about my school friends, almost all of them are moving to Bangalore after their graduation. There is not even a single guy who will be working in Kerala in our batch. So is it going to be the end of the wonderful Malayalee Culture? I hope not. What can I do about it? Who is responsible for this? There is an old trick of blaming the government for all these problems. This is a very effective trick that I acquired during my school days. For each essay that we wrote, there has to be the sentence of blaming government for not taking necessary steps to improve the situation. Let me keep this one as default, before thinking about the actual reason for this. So, what do malayalees want? More job opportunities? Why cannot I work in Kerala? I am sure that I won't get a job in Kerala. So what can be done? Something to think about.

Hey da,
Similar feelings..used to think about this and on same lines during engg days in REC Warangal...
One thing I know for sure,I will never let my mallu identity go...

Now I don't think about these things, became more "self centric"..or lost hope...
hail the mallu spirit:-)
lets start business/companies in kerala. i knw its not that easy considering the kind of political scenarion prevailing here, bt still that seems to be the only way.
Well said. At least this issue is raising its head. That's a start.

Unless the Malayalees elect a sensible govt that encourages investments in the state and curb the Union's teeth, no investor will set foot in Kerala. Once jobs are created I think Malayalees would have an opportunity to live and work in the state.
And the present day Malayalam channels are nothing but Ekta Kapoor clones.I am yet to see a serial that is essentially malayalee in content and theme. I do like DD Kerala's programes though. Some are really good. Good post.
@ Nikhil: same here, i also wont let my mallu identity go. But I am concerned about the generations after us. guess its high time we do something, but then what can be done?

@jithu: yeah very true. But the kind of stories that we hear about the entrepreneurs in kerala is startling. Reminds me of a movie named Varavelppu by lalettan. Though people argue that those times are gone past, I still doubt it.

@silverine: Thank you for the compliment. But then, neither the UDF or LDF seems to be thinking in that line so far. That is disheartening. For the mere materialistic gains they tend to oppose the good policies. And with the kind of politicans in both sides,the educated class finds that the easiest thing to do is to be apathetic towards politics, and if possible, get out of the place. this has to change.
A very thought provoking post!!

What is happening to Kerala is a replica of what is happening to the entire world. In this era of globalization, most people migrate to other countries (in this case cities) for a better living.

Let’s take S’pore as an example; it is a cosmopolitan city/country where the native population consists of Chinese and Indians. The national language is English, which is also the global language, though some might disagree with me. Turley a multi-cultural/global country!

On culture, I guess it cannot be lost; it’s rather an adaptation of culture. Moreover, culture, morals, values, core beliefs, norms et al. depend on individual following as opposed to their location.

Please excuse me but this is not for you. Why is it that Indians, in general, complain so much about the government and choose to do nothing about it or their situation?

To sum it all up: Change is a rule of life.
It is happening evrywhere....I am sure you are not that strict in following the malyaali conventions which you used to do at home....when you move out it is bound to happen...aren't you a hybrid of malyalee and cosmopolitan culture?...I feel the conventions were created to preserve ones the conventions one follows usually you can tell the region from which the person hails..those are being forgotten leading to the present situation...
hey sreejith....nice point raised...i think going out of one's home town has become a common issue however we never lose our identity...we in fact start holding on to it even more...yesterday i had been to a tournament where I met 3 mallu guys...all speaking in malayalam and i was pretty shocked myself...not because they were speaking in malayalam but the fact that i actually found some South Indians at the tournament...they were also talking about Mamooty...and some of the films...

Once a person leaves his home...he begins to miss it and value it even more....till what I have seen now....every Indian is like this...
hi Sreejith,

good post. losing Kerala identity would be akin to having no identity at all for me. we are proud Keralites and we should give something back to our state even if that requires us doing our studies outside etc.

on the movie, u ppl at IITM are lucky to have malayalam movies there :( liked Rappakal myself though it was a cliched theme. one thing that worries me is the selling off/demolition of our traditional tharavadus and manas which are so wonderful and marvellous.

serials and most programmes being aried these days on malayalam channels are helpless and worse. they not only distort our culture and above all, corrupt the sensibilities of people and spoil our children. all they show is ridiculous marriage break-ups, extramarital affairs and women being exploited etc all of them sending wrong messages and going against our ethos and norms.

it's high time the people in Kerala wake up to the beauty and values of our language, artforms, culture etc. but one very encouraging trend I see is that a lot of foreigners esp Europeans are really falling in love with our land and doing a lot to popularize Kathakali, Koodiyattam etc. everything Kerala is now gaining a huge attention in the world at large. that is an opportunity we must capitalize on.
@ disillusion: Adaptation of culture is fine. But what hurts is the fact that when the new culture comes in, it eclipses the existing culture, and the old ones slip into oblivion. The new culture should blend in with the old, preserving the good facets of it, than totally taking over.

Moreover, the new culture, many a times turn out to be a cheap plagiarism of the culture of the super powers.

@raghu: I totally agree with you. But the question is what needs to be done?

@random thoughts: nice to hear abt mallus in canada :P true that the nrks miss kerala more, but I am worried abt the generation nxt, not the immigrant ones. The new offsprings will know almost nothing abt Kerala :(

@Arjun: Nice idea. But who has time to do all these. The govt is more interested in short term accomplishments. They are now interested in setting up massaging centers and other stuff. By the time they realize the market for Kerala Art forms, there will be hardly any pure artists left :(
Moreover malayalees seeem to have lost interest in thes art forms, which is disheartening.
hey for those who love kerala and kerala and malayalam movies watch the movie achanurangatha veedu-u 'll lose if dont watch it out.

I feel that it is a movie of numerous hidden messages. I personally saw the movie with my friends.I felt bad when my friends expressed bad abt the movie.
The movie is still resting in my heart as a pain.I felt guilty of my consciousness but i couldn't find why?

The movie also depicts the typical kerala scenario where relationships are getting much thinner among friends as well as family members which diverts the mind in to other extreme thoughts.

I believe it is amovie that every teenager and every youth of kerala should watch to enlighten one 's consciousness about the hidden animal inside the all innocent malayalee.

hats off to all who thought of makin such a movie.....
wish you all the best....
its true that most of us including me live outside kerala n study or work, we all would love to come back but only if there were jobs, but who is to blame ofcourse the communists for making our state not invester friendly and underdevoloped industrially, but we are also to be blamed because we want greener pastures and we want bangalore,mumbai or madras, no one want the old kerala. this really hurts me as i love my state and i want people to think of returning back and doing something for the state before its too late.most of my friends i knew are in other parts of india or gulf and i am here in america. its sad to see all the new genration r outside kerala ,and kerala is left to rotten in the hands of the the so called communists and narrow minded militant thozhilali's......
Hai Narayanan

You have raised a great point.
Well, I am surprised to see your blog. I have always had Malyalees as colleagues in Bangalore and I always felt that they are very strong towards their language and culture and try to make sure that they speak in Malyalam even the technical discussions in presence of non malyalees. So the treat is to Kannadigas who in their own state are a minorities, what say?
I would like to say Thanks for helping. Dental Hospital in Hyderabad

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