The Nodal Point of Kerala Modernity : A Reading of Malayalam Movie Manikyakallu (2011)
The movie Manikykallu attempts to address the problems of a government school in Kerala and tries to offer some solutions. The movie projects a hero who with his heroic endeavor helps a school named Vannamala Government High school to overcome its dismal academic condition. The paper attempt to questions the heroic enlightenment project carried out by the hero and raises some pertinent questions that would challenge the heroic cult that the movie projects throughout the film. The story is based on the life of Vinaya Chandran a young teacher who is appointed in a government high school which was notorious for its dismal academic performance and records cent percent failure in the S.S.L.C. exam. The God that the school children call him later on in the film helps them to gain cent percent victory. The paper delves deep into the motive that prompts the teacher to achieve the end and the problems that happen when such a God like figure is created.
The film begins with the news report of S.SL.C result of Vannanmala Government High School where all students failed in the exam. The very first shot shows a character with a beard and short pants who is the teacher of the same school. He is going to school and the comments made by people in the near by teashop tell more about him. It is said that his main job is to eat and sleep. The discussion that follows in the shop explains more about the school. The school was the alma mater for even ministers. Now the government is planning to close down the school due to its poor performance. In the subsequent scenes other characters are also introduced. The head teacher is actively involved in the sale of bio fertilizers. He makes the school as a godown to keep his goods. In the next scene another teacher of the school Pavanan Parimalam who is engaged in the land deal is introduced. The discussion that followed between the teachers in the school speaks more about the Muslim teacher Aziz. He is suffering from back pain which according to his colleagues is because he takes marriage as a hobby. The school is waiting for a new teacher whose name the head master Kuruppu announces emphatically. He is Vinaya chandran who is very keen to get the appointment in the same school. Another female teacher is also introduced who is conscious of her beauty and called Sundari. The head master explains the situations of the school to the new teacher. In the talk that followed he mentions the name of another teacher Chandini who is a Physcial Education teacher whose main business according to the head master is the sale of chicken and conducting yoga classes. Vinaya Chandran is a maths teacher but agrees to deal all subjects except P.T. considering the situation of the school which lack teachers for many subjects. Then another teacher VDC ( Vasudevan Cheruvancherry) appears with some participants in a reality show and meets the head to allot a room for practice which he disagrees at first but later consents when VDC offers a perfume to him
During the dinner when asked about the decision to join the school, Vinachandran says it his pleasure to educate students who are very backward in their studies. In the next scene the drill teacher Chandini is introduced talking loudly in the bus ignoring the inconvenience of other passengers where Vinachandran intervenes and advises her. She is later seen actively involved in selling eggs in the staff room. Another teacher in the school is Sreedaran who is called Sk. He is a trade union leader and conducts meeting and rally to product government school
Chandini teacher decides to become a P.T. teacher because it does not require intellectual exercise. A boy an important character in the film is introduced who is an associate of Karringalkuzhi Karun who is the only illicit liquor trader in the area. Vinaya Chandran addresses Manu,the boy, as younger brother. The teacher who is aware of the boy’s desire to go abroad to make money lures him to join the school to pass out the S.SL.C and acquire both S.S.L.C and conduct certificates which are essential for going abroad. He is even ready to pay the hundred rupees which he gets from the trade. Manu does not have parents to look after. His mother works abroad and he is supposed to be an illegitimate son born of a Mustafa doctor. Manu attends the class but he is again trapped by Karun and his gang. His effort to educate Manu does not yield any result. He slaps the boy when he sees him carrying a bottle of liquor in the class. Out of desperation the boy leaves the village. The teacher carries on his mission and the school conducts night class to help the students. Manu is brought back to the school by the police and he too writes the exam. In the end all students get through the exam with A plus in all subjects. The school conducts a meeting to congratulate the hero and the film ends with a subtitle glorifying the teachers and their profession.
The problem with the movie is its motive and the way the hero emerges in the school. In order to make him an admirable person the other characters are depicted in bad light. All the other teachers in the school are inappropriate or not fully grown up characters. This modern hero and his culture Others all other cultures and ideologies. In a socio-political situation the section that Vinaya Chandran belongs seem to be suspicious of the other culture and sections of the society. There is an influence of Colonial Whiteman’s burden that hangs on his shoulder. He regards fame as the criterion for success and it is achieved by getting A plus in all subjects. The motive behind the choice of the school is to remove the stain that his father Rama Chandran brought about in the society. He is not moved by the passion of education but he is conscious of the cultural legacy of his family. It was during the tenure of his father as the head teacher the school recorded hundred percent failures. The movie does not probe the reason for it. Strangely presently a Kurup, who consider himself a thumpuran and believes a mere change will not bring social change, is the head of the school.
In the process of making him a god like figure the text clearly distorts other characters. The Muslim character is brutally silenced and othered. He is presented as a person with no other job except sleeping and eating. It is said that he is interested in marriages and indulge in sex. He suffers from back pain because of his sexual acts, it is said. The depiction stems from the ideology that the text holds which geminate from the belief that the community that he represents does not have the culture that film promotes. The movie promotes the prejudice of the society by this inappropriate portrayal.
The film’s representation of female character is also questionable. It is perpetuated by the movie that a female teacher cannot enlighten the society. Both the teachers are conscious of their beauty and it seems to say that they role is limited to satisfy the male. Chandini says that she cannot work hard that made her to become P.T. teacher. The very first scene itself shows the teacher talking loudly inside the bus to highlight the “fact” the socially misfit. It is the arrival Vinaya Chandran that makes her worthy and significant. The one who is stingy at first get educated and enlightened. The trade union leader also admits that it is Vinaya Chandren who opened his eyes. Thus all the teachers are educated with the help this flawless hero.
This hero who is flawless considers education all in terms of victory in the exam. He wants to make all the students to get through with A plus in all the subjects. He believes that attaining this end would solve all problems of the school and students. Paradoxically, this great mission that he has originates from the false sense of superiority. The boy Manu whom he saved from the liquor mafia is slapped by him. His enlighten vision does not allow him to penetrate the social condition of the boy, though he claims that he is an orphan like him. Unlike Manu, he was brought up as the son of teachers till the age o twelve where as Manu was brought up as an illegitimate son. The hero leaves when he loses the social prestige and recognition. He is afraid that Manu may prevent his desire to get back the social prestige. He never enquires about the child after the incident. His approach is that of a fascist who wants to achieve his end by hook or crook. He is a fascist but the method that he employs is that of love. He returns to the village to meet his lover and resume his broken relationship. He succeeds in making others believe that the mission that he has undertaken is a noble one. It would be difficult to imagine the ways that he may employ if any student failed to get A plus in all subjects!!