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Elippathayam ( Rat Trap) is the third film by Adoor and is supposed to
be the first one to bring him international acclaim. However, this is
first time I saw any of his films and I was taken aback at the way the
movie begins. A household of three a brother and two grown up sisters
are disturbed from their sleep as a rat's bites the brother.
Immediately followed one of the most OTT scenes I ever witnessed. The
three of them run to and fro in the house trying to catch the rat. We
see only their legs and hear a weird background score. I was shocked at
all this. I had taken considerable pains to come to watch this movie at
NFAI and I was like WTF!. Is this a film by the Great Adoor , the
director who's supposed to have made 9 PERFECT films in his 43 year
career, the man considered to be the heir of Satyajit Ray in the Indian
Cinema? But soon my fears were put to rest as the film seemed to have
come to senses and everything was shown perfectly. It was as if I was a
member of this small family and am watching whats going on the lives of
Rajamma ,an over aged unmarried girl who does all the household chores,
a college going Sridevi and their brother Unni. The film looks at Unni,
played brilliantly by Karamana Janardhan Nair, who's the head of this
family and is stubborn, narcissistic,feudalistic and an escapist to the
core. And much more. According to the director the film is a "a
detailed study of a character at many levels -- psychological,
physical, social, even genetic, based on his roots. I gave primary
colors to the characters' clothes and a predominant gray to the
Through various incidents that happen in this family, we get to know the contrasting personalities of the three siblings. We see an old family relative bringing up a match of a widower for Rajamma (played brilliantly by Sharada), a stray cow eating the leaves of the banana tree in their yard, Unni trimming his mustache with utmost concentration, thieves stealing away their coconuts, some relatives who drop in on them,the love story of Sridevi, Rajamma falling sick and so on. Amidst all these, we notice that the rat trap set by the younger sister is working and that it catches quite a few rats. And every time a rat is trapped, Sridevi takes the trap with the trapped rat to a pond situated a little away from the house and drowns it there. This scene is in fact a motif and occurs quite regularly - and each time we notice that the camera is located in a particular position vis-a-vis the road , and that Sridevi always walks in a particular style and speed, and a background music composed mainly of the drums used in folk music.And always the scene ends with a shot of a ripple in the pond and a crow singing in the background. Later in the movie, when we see the same scene sans the rat and the trap, we learn what exactly the rat trap Adoor is talking about. However the best is kept for the climax - when we see various people moving to and fro in a house , as we see only their legs and we hear the same weird music which we hear in the first scene, providing us with a brilliant insight. One of the interesting points about the movie is that except in the above mentioned scenes, there's no background music at all. About it, Adoor says "The music was also much more than a mere background score; it was employed as a significant constituent of the film in its thematic development." On the whole a GREAT movie. 10/10.
I've never watched Adoor Gopalakrishnan's single movie before this and
boy, am I thinking? It will make you think... introspect about your
life and may also prove a game-changer if you concentrate.
Karmana Janardhanan Nair's character is a narcissist, stubborn and lazy kind of a person who is reluctant to marry off his younger sisters who are way beyond their marriage age. PLayed by Sharada & Jalaja, they make up the main three characters which the movie starts off with chasing a rat. The beauty is that the opening & the closing sequence are so related, this could be the first award-winning film which does make sense towards the end.
Fantastic screenplay and the way the character maneuver the story is something of a genius. With brilliant support from rest of the cast, The Rat-Trap starts making sense all the way through 120 minutes. With an eerie background music that happens, countably four times throughout, the message of how big houses with lifeless people can turn out to be disastrous is conveyed.
Although, not all people will enjoy this rather medium-paced, silent movie. It has moments for people who can see.
BOTTOM LINE: The decayed story of lives of three people carried out in a marvelous setup. Highly Recommended!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Dear ICB posters,
I strongly recommend that you guys watch Elipathayam, a Malayalam film directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan. The film's languid pace might turn some of you off in the beginning. But I urge you to watch it with some patience.
In fact, a lot of you might identify with the actions of the film's strange protagonist. We live in a mad world in which constant change overwhelms us and renders us helpless and pathetic. The protagonist is one such pathetic person who is unable to deal with the changes around him and is reduced to a state of sloth. The film takes place at a "tharavadu" (a large home occupied by the upper castes in Kerala). Unni (played by Karamana), the patriarch of the tharavadu is overdependent on his two sisters to simply get through the day. He passes his days in a state of anomie, unable to deal with the encroaching world - represented by his greedy elder sister, an amorous woman who sexually shames him, a successful Christian acquaintance whose father used to work for the Unni's family and now has designs on Unni's sister, coconut thieves, a cow who eats the plants in his home and last but not the least a rat that always attacks him in his sleep.
While he is a pathetic figure, he is also very cruel to his sisters and indifferent to the people who visit him. The director portrays Unni as someone with no redeeming qualities but his helplessness deserves our sympathy.
The film's slow pace complements Unni's desolate, empty and idle life perfectly. Glimpses into the life at a tharavadu are interwoven into the narrative. The visuals are often the exact opposite of striking. The film is filled with shots of the still untouched nature surrounding the declining tharavadu, with only the colorful clothes worn by the women providing an occasional respite from the scenes of stillness and stagnation. The film must have been shot during the rains because the nature is awash in a very pleasant green. But rather than beauty they convey a sense of decay and ruin. I cannot really compare the visuals to any other film. They are truly unique. I also respect Adoor's control over the narrative, he never succumbs to any sort of temptation.
I was not awed by the performances of either Karamana or Sharada. But they were successful in conveying the sense of doom with which the characters lived. Karamana is an actor with great histrionic ability but over here he is subdued. Sharada was a very attractive woman, she was only 37 when the film was made.
I will not write about the title and how it is related to the plight of the protagonist. Enough and more has been written about it on the internet.
Best Regards, Pimpin.
Best Regards, Pimpin.
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