It's a wonder how can some moving frames do stir your heart deeply. And that's the magic of good cinema!
Piravi ('The Birth'), a 1988 Malayalam movie, is an absolute
masterclass. The directorial debut of Shaji N Karun, formerly a cinematographer, is a treat for the aficionados of quality films.
Borrowing inspiration from a real incident, the film revolves around an absent hero and his father.
In a remote village of Kerala, Raghava Chakyar is waiting for his son Raghu, an engineering student in Thiruvananthapuram. He is expected to arrive for the engagement of his sister. Raghu, born late to his parents, used to enjoy more love and care. But he doesn't turn up and makes his father disturbed. The old man goes daily by boat to a pier where the bus stop is situated but gets disappointed each time. Soon, he comes
to know by newspaper that his son is in police custody for some political reasons. He travels to Thiruvananthapuram in search of his son. He goes to the police and other authorities but they say that Raghu has been released an wash their hands off. The poor father believes the story and returns in hope that his son will return soon.
However, his daughter, who doesn't swallow this, makes her own investigation among Raghu's friends. She realises the fact that her brother may have been killed in police custody. Due to the lack of courage, she hides the truth from her parents. On the other side, the father continues to imagine his son's return and gradually loses the
grip on reality dreaming that his son is still beside him.
A different film in many ways, Piravi is loosely based on the 'Rajan
case' of 1978 that shook Kerala. Rajan, a college student, sang a mockery song on the Chief Minister in presence of him. The police arrested him and tortured him to death. His father filed case against the government triggering a wave of hot debates and protests.
The film itself addresses many issues notably the corruption in police
what is omnipresent all over the world. The sister of Raghu, who is a teacher is a symbol of the higher social status of women, that could
have been seen only in Kerala among the Indian states then.
But apart from a political statement, the film explores the humane side. It focus on a frail father who searches his son.
As a director, Shaji N Karun imprints his craftsmanship masterly. It is noted that Raghu's presence is only showed through his voice. Not
even his photograph is shown, and that makes the audience more imaginative so that they can give Raghu a figure they want.
The boat and the boatman in the film has been given much importance. The boat is a connection between hope and reality. On one side of the river prevails hope and when it reaches the other bank, hard reality
Another thing that plays a seminal role in the film is the nature. Only a few films other than Piravi have portrayed the nature especially monsoon so
much beautifully. The continuing rain and the dim light makes the conditions more gloomy and thereby the film more emotive.
Above all, what forms the soul of this film is undoubtedly the performance of Premji as the unfortunate father. A stalwart in the theatre movement, he gives one of his best performances of career. Over 80, he showcase an unparalleled piece of acting and invokes sympathy in the viewers and almost reduces them to tears. A thousand emotions
passes through his eyes simultaneously, what makes him an unequalled actor. A poignant and haunting film, it stays in a class of its own.
Needless to say, a mustwatch !!