Monday, August 13, 2012

Madhubana Kadai (2012)

Madhubana Kadai (MK) transcends the conventional tamil cinema narrative, as in it doesn't have a form - it holds no premise, no beginning, no building-up of a plot, no interval cut and no climax. The characters emerge from nowhere and then they are lost in some time, of course apart from a few who occupy the entire script. The script works more like, the dirty wine shop with its alcohol supplies, is the central character and the people who visit it are peripherals at the most. In the hindsight, it looks like it could have worked only this way. 

MK had a lot of Bala-esque scope for instilling emotions and drama, but it decided not to. It takes no moral stance and it's no propaganda engine, the most it did is to disperse several satirical elements which can be labelled "political" statements. The film is set in Erode-Perundurai locales and shows in heart and blood, a single day in the life of a TASMAC wine shop. The wine shop is visited by people from all walks of life and occupations and is the center of a lot of political discussions, social skirmishes, drinking as social status elements etc. 

The tamil society (big cities should be exceptions) with all its self-righteous moral-policing is still devoid of genuine social hang-outs. That is where the relevance of so many cinema halls and TASMAC outlets emerge. Cinema theaters and toddy shops are the only centers of catharsis (in the sense of emotional outlets) for the working class (Women are limited to only cinema and neighborhood gossips I suppose). Hence these are centers of social equality, that even the all-pervasive casteistic hierarchy has to stay away from them. The film quite correctly references this as "Samarasam Ulaavum idame". MK is the confluence of cinema and liquor in that sense.

For me, the last three minutes of the film made a huge impact out of nowhere. It featured the social angst of a dalit sewage drain cleaner in quite some details. I mean, I don't remember the last time a main-stream tamil feature film spoke about this issue. The scene was quite inconsequential from the script's POV but it did make a profound political statement. That is why this film is special, it didn't attempt to have an agenda but then made a spontaneous go at issues like this. A second viewing would certainly help I suppose.

MK makes a mockery of the drinking culture in a typical tamil society. TASMAC is one of the largest money spinners and is a source of humongous revenue for the state. When the state handles the alcohol industry, it becomes just another object of political & monetary greed and the film rightly presents the case of "duplicate liquor" and gross mismanagement of the infrastructure of the industry. Drinking is thus not a source of bacchanalian pleasure here as it should be.

PS: The film is inspired by this Nanjil Nadan essay (as in the credits), which offers a brilliant read.

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