An attitude woman

My friends might shake their heads when they find out that I skipped the new star wars for this movie, but no start war can do what Pilibail Yamunakka can.

Posters for Pilibail Yamunakka feature an old lady with a large sootay-kathi (machete) wrapped up in the back of her blouse. Women who are quiet fierce or sarcastic are also called sootay in Tulu. “Vengeance takes over humanity this September” announces a poster for the movie below a range of serious faces.

This isn’t a very serious movie. Well it is but not how you know serious movies. In fact the movie seems so far away from the usual tropes and such a mish-mash of genres that it seems like an art film. But it is important to remember that Tulu movies and drama are almost always comedies.

The movie begins with a man rushing through the fields carrying a knife in the middle of the night. I must admit I giggled when I realized his cloak was a blanket, but it adds some sort of authenticity. The old lady in the poster awakens and declares that she knows someone is coming to kill her. But no one arrives. The next thing you know its morning and her sons make jokes about how she isn’t dead yet.

This scene was actually shot at my great-aunts place and it’s not very far from reality either. In many of Jain Zamindar household sons and branches of the family were often vying to inherit property from the heads of the family who were more often than not old matriarchs. It might seem a little morbid to outsiders but this is almost a stereotype to be honest. The old woman, Yamunakka of Pilibail complains about her sons and their “kirikiri” while decked in gold and having a doctor massaged her legs with oil.

Cut to three jobless guys who hang out in the city. They get drunk and share the good doctor’s advice on how to drink alcohol while fooling your liver. That’s Dr.Vijaya Mallya. Of course there is always that character that has a lecture ready right after his daily prayers. Someone farts at him. One of the biggest fears I had about this movie or any low budget regional film is how they tend to rely on the usual tropes of cinema or play it safe. This movie doesn’t seem to care at all for those tropes.

Before they leave the house in search of work they meet a Pourakarmika who calls anyone who fails to hand over garbage anti-national. “I’ll file a sedition case” he yells. They eventually meet two traffic cops. The inspector in this duo fails to carry out his duties because of his constant need to pee and because he is in debt to the constable. Our men continue now on a quest for love, with one eventually finding girl he wants to do “love” with. They actually just want to marry rich. He follows her around smiling creepily and holding a tiny flower. I’m sure this has to be parody and literally asks her if she wants to love. She says cool but it’ll cost you 2000.

She like many other characters in the movie is short, fat and dark. Tulu movies seem surprisingly progressive that way, only two characters are conventionally attractive. He goes home dejected until all his friends offer to pool in the money. In fact it’s the righteous Morning Prayer guy who mysteriously discovers he has the cash. The others were badly affected by demonetization and we had previously seen them paying the cops bribes with coins. They send another guy to get condom and the poor guy has to come up with innuendos to tell the shop keeper what he wants and what flavour the group wants. “Poor people have nothing to eat and you want strawberry?” says the irritated shopkeeper. Unfortunately the woman decides 4 men is way too much and walks off.

This more sexual humour is mixed in with the slapstick and sarcasm. You don’t see this mix often, and in most movies sexuality ends up becoming a crass or taboo sort of thing. More interesting was the crowd. Most of Mangalore’s theatres are in the city so you have a mix of people from both urban and rural areas turning up to watch the movie. Everybody laughed away at the slapstick and the sexual humour.

After many shenanigans, selfies, and trips to the mall where people dress up nice so that people think they are well off we end up back at Yamunakka’s house. One of her son’s decides that he needs to chase the other out so he can get the property. He hires two men to do this. They do it by pretending to be ghosts and parodying Bahubali. I don’t know why but it’s hilarious. Unfortunately the other guys’ son is convinced a member of the ghost duo killed Bahubali and wows vengeance. I’m not certain if this character is just dull or playing the jester.

Eventually our original group of men turn up pretending to be Indian ghost busters and say “Gaar Gaar Mandali” while chasing the ghosts who eventually cross dresses and pretends to be a Byari speaking Nagavali. There’s also a romance subplot, a subplot with thieves who have to cross dress to steal diamonds so they can get settled in life, one of the men trying to hook up with their landlords wife, two exorcisms, ghosts with piles etc. that happen under the influence of alcohol and cross dressing.

Apparently I had great grand uncle who tried the same thing. Right down to Bayri speaking ghost. And I can’t believe I forgot this but there is also a subplot involving a person wearing a Goa shirt, carrying an axe threatening literally everyone in his quest to ban candy crush. “You don’t know my flash back!” he repeats over and over. It’s basically a meme in film format.

There is a twist at the end so skip this paragraph if you want to avoid spoilers. It is revealed that Yammunka wasn’t the legitimate possessor of the house but seized it after killing her abusive husband. She was formerly a maid who had an affair with the landlord. She kicked his legitimate child out and killed his mother with a sootay-kathi. He is the man we see in the beginning of the movie and eventually kills her.

The ending may feel a bit rushed or break from the tone of the movie after the comedy. The attitude woman mentioned in the title really takes a back seat for most of the movie. But that’s mostly due to the way that the movie works- mixing in things from every genre and not really caring for movie rules. If you don’t know the language or the culture that the movie is centered on it isn’t for you because I have no idea if it can be properly translated. But if you do, then it promises to be a lot of fun.

Rebecca

Rebecca, a novel by Daphne du Maurier, is an engrossing tale told through the eyes of an imaginative young woman as she marries a wealthy English man, and discovers many sinister truths at his beautiful country estate of Manderly.

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A copy of Rebecca

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again”

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again” a simply but haunting line that sets the tone for the narrators recollections. The novel is also teeming with  quotable lines by the way. We never learn her first or maiden name, she is simply called Mrs. De winter after she is married. Even while her narration has just begun, and she still serves as companion to the tactless Mrs. Van Hooper, her tendency to present herself as a very naive, doubtful and imaginative girl is apparent. Well, she never really calls herself imaginative but hardly a chapter goes by where the narrator does not stop to immerse herself in fantasy. If these things irritate you, I doubt you’ll enjoy the novel.

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A still from Alfred Hitchcock’s’ 1940 adaptation

Like everything else in the novel, things take quite a while to unfold, but eventually the narrator finishes her tales of how she married Max, or Maxim de Winter as he’s popularly known. She is still very doubtful and cautious, and Max isn’t very open about his emotions. With their large age difference, Max’s’ reserve, her constant worry and the shadow of Rebecca (Max’s’first wife) hanging over them  you’d assume their relationship was doomed to fail.

When the narrative reaches the vast, beautiful estate of Manderly, where Rebeccas’ presence threatens to leap from every corner, every fear that the narrator refuses to forget seems to be justified. This stretch of the story also introduces Mrs. Danvers, a character who instills the fear of propriety like no other. All is not as it seems in Manderly and the people are more sinister than the narrators many flights of fantasy dared imagine.

Mrs. De winter and Mr De Winter seem to develop a real relationship only as things threaten to get worse for them. It isn’t hard to see the major twists coming (I won’t give it away) but reading it is still thrilling. The many characters introduced, their kindness, their love for Rebecca and Manderly all become sources of tension, of a tragedy just waiting to unfurl itself. A friend declared I was reading this part so hard my eyes threatened to pop out.You’ll probably expect the ending and maybe even accuse it of being a conveniently happy one but Daphne du Maurier is able to translate the many quirks of the narrator into an endearing figure who you’ll be rooting for all across the end.

Some might argue that the ending wasn’t all that happy, the fate of Manderly, and the narrators craving for tea might have been the cause of many future worries and flights of fantasy but I disagree. It isn’t as threatening as the other problems the couples faced,it is no ultimatum, and it is nothing they cannot live without. And I have a feeling that the tragic is something the narrator craved deep down. Perhaps that’s why she loved those fantastic day dreams, those long looks back into the past.

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A young Daphne du Maurier