I recently saw the Malayalam-language movie, Kumabalangi Nights, which has been saved in “My List” for a long time on an OTT platform after my friends recommended it to me. It is another impressive movie, or I would rather call it vaguely cinema, but profoundly a tangible illustration of narratives propagated around love, life, career and most importantly, “manhood” and “womanhood”.
There is a lot that comes to my mind when I talk about this movie. The movie sets the stage on the unhinged peace of life of four unrelated brothers after losing their father and their mother (who is alive but is in reverence to God). Certainly, their disrupted peace of life is stipulated through financial insecurities, alcoholism, aggressive behaviour, for the least, which touches upon their love lives too.
Conventional wisdom, the harsh reality of the “progressive society” we live in, pinpoints financial securities and a secured job as defining traits for a man to be suitable for marriage prospects. Especially in arranged marriages, there is a definite concern of how stable a person is (financially), but do you think that must not and should not apply merely to a male counterpart?
Frankly, the concern must not merely be about financial stability, but more about individuality, personality and the way two people would find that space to feel connected holistically under this branded institution of marriage.
On the contrary, when it comes to love marriages, these discussions go to and fro with all forms of blaming on both prospects involved. But I believe every story must find a suitable way of handling their situations better (in that case, until they find themselves mature enough to handle their marriage, it could be kept on hold, but not in denial).
Unlike what we see with our families, once parents are informed, they question and force their decision over their children, and it becomes worse when it comes to a female. First, she undergoes a round of character assassination and then has to stand firm to prove her compatibility in front of their family and other relatives.
Taking this issue further, I find at various instances how a person, be it male or female ( two genders in this movie), has to preserve the determining specifications on manhood or womanhood. The opening frames of the movie show an overt pride of a man over his manhood through this fully grown, well-trimmed and perfectly aligned moustache, followed by self-appreciation in the mirror of a massive chest with all air pumped in.
In multiple instances, this financial stability comes as a depiction of manhood because that affects the rest of man’s personality. Merely being a cook cannot give you manhood, or as he says, “We are not feathers of the same bird, but two different feathers.”
And if a man asks a girl for a kiss, irrespective of her retraction, he is shocked by her reflexive slap, infuriating him because a man can never take “no” for his manhood. It also stands in the way of a sexually informed and educated person, especially a woman, and that she uses this informed tone to question a man’s deed.
When Baby defended the foreigner guest, her brother-in-law could not stand her in the first place talking against him, and secondly using that “sexually educated person’s” way of talking. Weird, isn’t it? Moreover, Shammi’s manhood failed to respect the sexual choice of the foreigner, where she wished to spend the night with a local company, as a hint to spoiling their culture. It does question the culture we represent because perhaps manhood teaches us to breach someone else’s privacy too.
Contrarily, a woman finds womanhood in preserving herself for one and keeping the courtship as a promise for marriage, portraying a shy, timid, coward personality and just following her husband wherever he asks or goes. That is still the reality. She is expected to speak up about every secret to protect their relationship, without having her own decisions involved in this or anything for that matter.
Interestingly, females are the ones who propagate this narrative of job stability, borne out of a patriarchal notion, before considering it as a marriage proposal. I would recommend my readers start it from one’s own family and give it a reality check.
While everything about financial stability and compatibility becomes important, nobody questions the previous records on one’s mental health individually or in the family. Hardly the wife in the movie knew of the behavioural change that her husband divulges into, a very random change of events. He was expected to shout, misbehave or speak at the least, but with that weird smile on his face and moustache in place, he tried to symbolise a behavioural disorder.
She calls his friend and asks what this behaviour is and then she is informed of his history of having fits and that he would be “fine” — at the stake of three women’s lives probably. Now would you not agree that this is even worse than having financial instability or emotional incompatibilities?
I would want all my readers to watch this movie which senses the new ways of life emerging in our society, but still the old, classic and more illogical ways standing in the way of not letting it progress. And also, share with those you feel are quite adamant and unsettling about their manhood/womanhood.