Saturday, September 03, 2011

Koruvanathile Poothangal - Prakasan Madikkai

What I observe in the new  Malayalam writing, is their new found love for myths, history and the language, mixing the contemporary issues. Be its politics or socio-economical changes, the creation of the atmosphere often goes through these fundamental elements. This is an interesting trend, taking us back to the style of 60s and 70s before the arrival of post modern stuff.

Mixing myth, history, folklore,cultural rituals and local beliefs with reality Prakasan builds an engaging tale of destruction to the eco systems and to the society with the arrival of the quarry in the village. The quarry is the living place for most of the dginns or the dead souls.  They live their peaceful existence mingled with the local beliefs.  With the arrival of the quarry, they were evicted from there by the powerful exorcist Arjuthan who managed to contain them in a pot and sealed and buried them deep under. With this , the quarry started their operations and according to the local Communist LEader and member of the Panchayat, came labour to the large number of the villagers. However, this was only the beginning of the worse.  The political lobby would want to start a theme park in the village, adjoining the river and the small island. The balanced ecosystem of the villagers , the nature and the numerous elements of supernatural power thus breaks. Every break in the system does destroy the place and the ill-fate befall the village, which witnesses unusual deaths of his various inhabitants.

Prakasan's novel is a political as well. Without getting into the political debates, he manages to sketch the changing face of politics, from the all enduring humanist communist to one being manipulated by the rich, and later itself become the rich by means of its business interests. It is the same with religion.

Language, especially its control on the narration is one that makes this a different reading. Language with its local fragrance and simplicity can be an extremely powerful tool. It removes the elements of forced writings and build in the reality. The expressions are shorter and crisp. They do not need explanation ( may be translation in certain cases).

The village Noonjiyur, is the typical hill side village in the north Kerala. It has its own variety of "Theyyams" and the legend associated with each. Yatheesan, the youngster, who is supposed to be playing the " Chamundi Theyyam" at the Temple. But the previous night visit to the local prostitute and the alcohol gets him out of control and  in the end looses his right to be a theyyam. Its the hunter Ratnakaran, who comes to his rescue. However, Ratnakaran who with his double barrel gun and cruel mannerisms scared the locals, died when a wild boar lost its senses and ran all over him. Similar fates awaits lot more characters. The Quarry owner Kurian, local secretary of Communist Party, the theyyam artist Kotharmman, Comrade Kumaran, The local exorcist and witch doctor Arjuthan, Pokkan who send law suits to al of the village on various reasons,  the carpenter Ambookkan, the madman Cherooli Raman, the Temple oracle Kandan etc are some of the many active and interesting characters that you meet in the tale. This mosaic style of characterisations  forms the overall picture of the village. Because of this, the tale looses a central character around which the story move and that is one huge reason for its not becoming a full length novel, from its current length.

It is interesting to see Magical realism still has takers. While the story line is not the strength of this novel, and the canvas itself is short, Prakasan overcome these deficiencies through his brilliant use of language and the construct. With the coexistence of history , myths and rituals , he creates a a world of fantasy often making it difficult to differentiate the real from the imagery. While magical realism might be out of fashion in the literary world, it still has its effects here in this short novel.

Winner of the 2010 Green Books award, this book is heralded as one of the new voices in Malayalam Literary scene. Prakasan Madikkai, indeed has a strong voice and a style that is powerful as well as effective in getting his points across. The book is short and the story line per se is not great. What he did is to create a effect with sublime use of his resources. Very good effort by this debutante.
Koruvanathile Poothangal ( 2010)

Prakasan madikkai

Green Books

111 Pages

Rs 80

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