Thursday, September 10, 2009

Oru pattu pudavayin kadai.....

I was really happy when I saw this news because when I saw the movie, I was afraid it was going disappear into the oblivion unrecognised, purely because it would be branded as a ''documentary''.

True, Kanchivaram is not a commercial movie but it was so well made that by the end of it, you are full of communism and suddenly so many things you have heard in the past about it, start making sense.

It is the story of a silk sari weaver, Venkatam, who wants to get his daughter married in a silk sari....sounds ironic right ? But as the movie, with its scenes set in India, ruled by the British, moves on, the irony takes the shape of naked truth that stares you in the face - weavers' lives hanging by a thread....

Venkatam vows that his bride will wear a silk sari on the day of his wedding. Never happens. He is blessed with a baby girl and during the naming ceremony, he whispers in the baby's ears that he will get her married in a silk sari. Everyone around him, friends and relatives, even his wife stare at him shocked (and some even mock him for his day dreams !) - sad....

Venkatam weaves a novel silk sari. The landlord that employs him gives him an extra rupee over his normal salary of 2 rupees per sari. In the same scene, he is shown selling the sari to a foreigner for 800 rupees who in turn wants to sell it for 100 pounds in the UK - appalling !

Venkatam tells his wife, Anu, about all the designs he has come up with for the saris. She says she would love to see a silk sari and more so, the one he has woven. He takes her to the landlord's daughter's wedding, so that she can catch a glimpse of it when the daughter leaves the house - touching...

Venkatam never manages to save enough because of his family commitments. When the realisation dawns on him, he takes an audacious decision and starts stealing a few strands of silk thread everyday by concealing them in his mouth since all the weavers are checked before leaving - uh...oh....

Venkatam starts weaving a sari in his home in a small room in the barn even without his wife's knowledge. After a few years, when his wife finally falls sick and is at her death bed, he carries her to the barn and shows her a 25% complete silk sari in a loom. Tears trickle down her cheeks as she takes her last breath - overwhelming....

Venkatam meets a communist writer, starts learning about communism and decides to take things into his hand along with his friends, fuelled by deaths due to starvation among the families of weavers. They come up with a list of demands such as increase in pay, pension for the retired and dead and many others and submit it to the landlord, who without even glancing at it, throws the list away. They are forced to call a strike - hmmm...

Venkatam's daughter, who is now of marriageable age, falls in love with his friend's son. Everyone insists on the wedding taking place immediately since the groom works in the army and would be called away any time. But with the strike, Venkatam has had no chance to get enough silk threads for weaving the silk sari, which is by now nearing completion - uh..oh

Venkatam is torn between his ideals, lives of his fellow weavers who have braved the strike and his life long ambition, desire and craving of having ONE silk sari for one of the women in his life after having woven 100s of them. As always, communism is on the losing side and he calls off the strike and goes back to work incurring the wrath of many of his friends who start accusing him of having taken a bribe from the landlord for his daughter's impending wedding - oh..my God....

Venkatam's friend pushes him in frustration one day while he is coming back from work and he ''coughs'' up the truth in the form of silk threads spewing from his mouth. He is nearly beaten to death and arrested by the police for the theft - sniff...sob....

Venkatam is allowed to go home for 2 days from the prison to see his daughter who has had an accident. He comes home to see his girl completely paralysed with noone to take care of her. Since he has to be back in prison and there is no way the girl will survive without help, he feeds her poisoned food - kadavule.....

Venkatam uses the almost-complete silk sari as a shroud. Only it is a bit too small to cover his daughter from head to toe. He tries to pull it up, the toes are exposed, he tries to pull it down, her head is exposed, he tries to pull it up, he tries to pull it down, up, down, up, down - gut wrenching....!

What is more disheartening is that the plight of weavers today is only slightly better and now they are not just threatened by minimal wages and ruthless industrialists but also by globalisation resulting in far fewer people buying silk saris and garments.

When amma asks me the next time, if I would like a silk sari, I might very possibly say yes and would think of taking a bus to Kanchipuram instead of going to T-Nagar.......
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