Sunday, December 23, 2012


A word of caution: 

If you are planning to watch ‘Ozhimuri’ reclining on your couch sipping scotch and soda, munching on some hors d'oeuvres all set for a wholesome weekend entertainment, banish the thought. Ozhimuri is not an entertainer but a serious cinema for the connoisseur!   

The theme of ‘Ozhimuri’ is based on Marumakkathayam, the matrilineal system of inheritance of ancestral property, followed even today by certain families in the Travancore region.

While Vivaaha Mochanam is the Malayalam word for divorce the word Ozhimuri is perhaps the local dialect, unique to the border regions of the Travancore-Kanyakumari belt. Under the matrilineal system, women had the unequivocal power to divorce their husbands by giving 'ozhimuri' on a piece of palm-leaf which is accepted as a valid document for their separation. The word Ozhimuri is perhaps derived from the fact that a small piece of palm-leaf is used as a document to annul the marriage.

Ozhimuri begins with Meenakshi (Mallika) who is 55, demanding divorce from her 71-year-old husband Thanupillai (Lal), who had ill-treated her and their son, Sharath (Asif Ali), all through their lives. The story takes place in a village in Kanyakumari district, which was once part of the Princely State of Travancore but has come under Tamil Nadu after the States re-organization in 1956. The confusion in the minds of the locals as they are struggling for identity between two distinct cultures viz. Malayalam and Tamil provides an interesting backdrop.

It is only through the narrations of Sharath to Bala (Bhavana) a young lawyer that we get to see the trauma that he and his mother had to go through at the hands of his cruel father Thanupillai (Lal) who had lived his life with hatred and vengeance having been brought up by his fiery and matriarchal mother, Kali Pillai brilliantly essayed by Swetha Menon. Her authority and ruthlessness in kicking out her husband Mallan Sivan Pillai because she finds him an useless wastrel, leaves a mental scar on her son Thaanu Pillai who resolves that unlike his father, he will never let a woman dominate his life but keep her in her place. Thus, Meenakshi, Thaanu Pillai's wife is relegated to a speck of dust in their household. She is abused and ill-treated by her husband in his retaliation to the ruthlessness of his mother. Whenever he gives a resounding slap on his wife Meenaksh’s face, Thaanu Pillai convinces himself that he is not the weakling that his father was. In this process Thaanu Pillai alienates his only son Sarath, who finds it impossible to understand his father's cruelty and meanness which leaves the distraught family in shambles.

The film portrays women in two extremely opposite categories. Kaali Pillai the haughty and ruthless woman who doesn't hesitate even for a second to slap a man who encroaches her land or treating the Police Inspector like her subordinate when summoned to the police station is one extreme and Meenakshi the docile and meek wife who gets viciously slapped by her husband for the slightest of reasons and stoically accept her lot as his doormat is the other.

While the on-screen presentation is slow, there is not a moment of boredom or slackness in the narrative. The Trivandrum dialect spoken in this film adds flavor to the narrative. Mind you, it is not the easy flowing slang spoken by Mammooty in the Film Rajamanickyam but this dialect is unique to the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border region and delivered with élan by the three main protagonists Lal and Shwetha Menon and perhaps by the dubbing artist for Mallika.  

While the romantic lead provided by the younger actors Bhavana and Asif Ali is up to the mark, they get completely overshadowed by the histrionics and dialogue delivery of the three senior protagonists. The brief court scene in the climax is certainly a game-changer and makes you sit up.

Ozhimuri has two surprises. The first surprise is Director Madhupal, whom we have seen as a supporting actor doing cameos in innumerable Malayalam films but never even thought he had the potential to present such a serious narrative. 

The second surprise is bilingual writer Jeyamohan who scripted the Tamil blockbuster ‘Angadi Theru’ which boldly exposed the ruthless and cruel way in which large retailers like ‘Saravana Stores’ exploited and ill treated their employees. This is his maiden attempt in scripting a Malayalam film and has done a brilliant job.

Verdict: A must watch if you are a lover of serious Cinema!!