I watched the Malayalam movie “Ritu” at a friend’s home last week. The movie is ostensibly a new genre of Malayalam movie. What I saw left me disappointed and annoyed. Disappointed, because the story is a contemporary retelling of an old tale i.e. the Malayalee returning to the homeland to start a business venture etc. Annoyed, because the story is written by someone who has no knowledge of the subject in the modern/IT context and panders to the misconceptions that people in Kerala have (specially the older generation) about IT professionals and their lifestyle in Bangalore. The story is written to touch the raw areas and sweet spots of its audience. Nothing sells like misconception that people hold dear because it gives them a sense of security of knowledge.
If this is the new cinema of Kerala then I am deeply disturbed. The movie doesn’t understand its characters or even tries to understand. It is written on wrong surmises and hearsay. The story is so clichéd that one wonders if it is written by a person who has never stepped outside Kerala or ever met an IT professional. Most of the understanding of the young people working in IT companies are derived from reading blogs and the movie has lots of bloopers, like Sunny ( a Kerala Malayalee as opposed to an NRK) who keeps saying “I hate these bloody mallus!” for no apparent reason. It seems to be like a trendy slang the scriptwriter latched onto for the hip effect.
Another blooper is Sharath’s colleague who discovers that Sunny is selling sensitive information by breaking the news to Sharath with this line “That Sunny is gay!!!”
Derogatory usage of the word “mallu’ is restricted to people who have had bad experiences with Kerala Malayalees and to a large extent by NRK's (Malayalee born and brought up outside Kerala to parents who hail from Kerala). The reasons for this will be explained in another blog post. Let me talk about the movie here.
The story is very similar to Varavelpu, where Sharath the protagonist, returns to Kerala after a stint in the US (apparently forced by brother in law) to start a project in Kerala. He is banking on the support of his old friends, Varsha and Sunny. The three were thick friends before Sharath left for the US.
Soon Sharath finds out that his friends have changed. Varsha keeps getting calls from guys in Bangalore and Sunny even hints at a promiscuous life she got into in Bangalore. At times you get the feeling that the movie is slyly trying to portray Bangalore as the Sin City of India. The connection is cleverly pushed, as Bangalore is the IT capital with most IT professionals working here. A naïve viewer would think that all that a girl needs to get laid is go to Bangalore, which is peopled by strapping young male IT professionals who speak only English and party all the time and live a very happening life. And what’s more they keep calling Varsha throughout the day telling her they “miss her”. Err… boys in the fast lanes missing their one night stands? Something doesn’t add up here.
Varsha's dialogues are restricted to "I want to go to Bangalore!" which she says over and over again to convey that she is addicted to Bangalore and its 'charms'. And parties as suggested in the movie happen only on Page Three of Bangalore Times where potbellied Uncles and Aunties and rich kids smile at cameras and pose like they are having a good time.
Guy friends who watched the movie with us were laughing at the portrayal of Bangalore and wondered if the filmmakers knew that the standard Bangalore social life constituted of going to the nearest booze shop every weekend to pick up booze to drink with friends and roomies ( all male) in two bedroom apartment shared by four guys.
The movie progresses with more clichés, like the successful lady entrepreneur who has reached the pinnacle of success not through hard work but by refusing to have kids to concentrate on her career. Or Varsha cleaning up her act by discarding western clothes and wearing salwars and pottu like a "good girl".
I won’t spoil the movie for you, but if it is trying to reiterate misconceptions and preying on people, especially parents fears, then it has done a good job. In the long run, movies like these only makes life difficult for Malayalees working in the IT industry with frantic parents and taunting relations having the justification to diss Bangalore as a trap waiting to swallow their unsuspecting young IT professionals.