'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Rainy Day With Little To Do

The monsoon is here - in all its glory and fury; yesterday evening, as one sat watching its frenzied dance and drinking one’s favorite drink, memories went back to an old film song, heard perhaps a couple of times in distant radio times, loved nevertheless and then lost. Merciful Youtube recovered one or two recordings of it – although no video from the film. The song goes ‘kanjirottu kayalilo’. Written by Bhaskaran and composed by Devarajan, it has no match among Mal songs for the way it evokes rain and longing - the only comparison is 'Thengum Hridayam'.

Today, having little else to do, I made plans of recording videos of rain falling over a branch of the Kochi backwaters that winds its course not far from home – and to put in that song as voice over. At least thrice during the day, it did rain but by the time I could grab the cellphone and umbrella and rush out, it would thin out or stop altogether….

Searching online for more details, I gathered that 'Kanjirottu kayal' is a picturesque limb of the octopus-like Ashtamudi lake near Kollam. And then, google also put out the legend of Chirutheyi aka ‘Kanjirottu Yakshi’.

Even by Kerala standards, Chirutheyi’s story is an outlier:

The highly-in-demand courtesan Chirutheyi and her brother Govindan both fall for a handsome (and much married) palanquin-bearer named Kunjuraman. Both get intimate with the latter (with Chirutheyi showing clear BDSM tendencies).

In her relentless quest to have exclusive rights over Kunjuraman, Chirutheyi secretly killed off his wife. But she had reckoned without her own brother. The passionate Govindan spills the beans to Kunjuraman and the latter avenges his wife by strangling Chirutheyi.

Post-death, Chirutheyi turns into a yakshi. Like any proper yakshi, she waylays and kills many young men but also pines for Kunjuraman, her one true love. The latter wants to have no truck with the supernatural seductress. After several adventures and interventions by a sorcerer (a devotee of Balarama - Krishna's brother - of all deities!), a very complex deal is struck: Chirutheyi gets to spend a year with Kunjuraman but has to make way for her brother thereafter; she should desist from preying upon other young men and submit to being worshiped (note the irony there!) at a shrine built expressly for that purpose and when the shrine collapses (it eventually would, as per the arrangement), her spirit would merge into the Narasimha incarnation of Vishnu (*)

Reader, if how the story ended - a long time ago - sounded rather mystifying, what has followed - in our own time - is simply beyond words. I quote from Wiki:

After taking refuge in Lord Narasimha of Thekkedom, the Yakshi is now believed to reside in Cellar B of Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Trivandrum. As Princess Aswathi Thirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi observes, "Disturbing her peace (by opening the cellar that has lain untouched for centuries) would be a disaster especially if her current quiet temperament reverts to the menacing nature that was once hers"


I could recall reading about a film with story line somewhat similar to the Yakshi's. Searching online, I found that it was 'Dreamers' by Bernardo Bertolucci - against the backdrop of the 1968 student unrest in Paris, a brother and sister get into a complex tangle with a visiting American student. Of course, IMHO, the 'Dreamers' story, for all its reputation and modernity, comes nowhere near the Chirutheyi-Govindan-Kunjuraman triangle!

Aside: I know well someone who claims to have discovered 'Dreamers' while at secondary school. He adds: "I think of myself as an old-timer. Among the so-called New-Gen, I am sure there will be a few who would have been weaned on that film!"


Let me add some more memories - not quite sepia tinted but old nevertheless - triggered by the discovery that Dreamers was made by Bertolucci.

Not long ago, there was no Youtube or even Internet and young folk in our hostels used to hire video players and cassettes for occasional screenings; such screenings often were controversial due to conflicting attitudes towards adult content being shown. For example, I recall hearing of a screening of Bertolucci's 'Last Tango in Paris' in the Common Room of the co-ed hostel of one of our top-flight research institutions. The explicit scenes in the film had apparently caused great outrage among some of the inmates. I don't know further details of how things panned out there but happen to know very well, another story from another research institution. My information is of the reliable second hand variety. Over to the narrator.


Our institute had hostels for guys and girls that (oddly enough) shared a common room. There was only a TV set and music system in there. Once, some of us guys put up a proposal to buy a video player. It was shot down vehemently by the guy who was in charge ('Secky' hereafter) - he asserted that some of the girls were of opinion that the whole idea behind buying the VCP was for some of us 'sick guys' to watch porn.

Shortly thereafter came some festival. Secky said he would hire a VCP and asked people to suggest films. Although most guys showed little interest, we soon gathered that the films and the player had been arranged. Secky duly announced at lunchtime: "Look, ----- (one of the girls) is learning karate so she asked for a martial arts film. And I could get Bruce Lee's 'Fist of Fury'. That will begin the screening tonight"

Most of us didn't care. "Let him and that female watch the dishum dishum!" - went the general opinion. Then one chap (let us call him Joe) said. "Guys, let's just sit through that film. Trust me!"

The screening began with Secky expressing satisfaction at a full house having assembled despite the fracas over the video player purchase. 'Fist of Fury' literally kicked off the proceedings. It was insufferable from the word go and some us were soon casting angry glances at Joe who sat calm and impassive. Of course, 'karate kid' seemed suitably impressed.

And then came the punch. About halfway thru, the film featured a striptease - and a very racy, oriental one at that. In hindsight, I am sure, it would have ruined millions of twentieth century video remotes in this very country. A couple of female voices were heard muttering "Hey what the hell!" or some such thing. But nobody - including Secky - moved; perhaps everyone was stunned.

And before anyone could act, the scene - just about a minute long - concluded; and Joe spoke: "Guys, painful film this! Let's be gone!" and within moments, our entire gang had marched out. Pity, I didn't look back at Secky.


(*)Evidently, the story's conclusion incorporates a very lame attempt to pass off Govindan's feelings for Kunjuraman as akin to Balarama's for his beloved younger brother Krishna. Curiously, there seems to be no serious modern reworkings of Chirutheyi's story; the decidedly less spectacular 'Venmani Yakshi' has had at least one theatrical interpretation in Narendra Prasad's acclaimed 'Sauparnika'.