Rain comes as an important leitmotif in Dileesh Pothen’s Maheshinte Prathikaram. It is camouflaged as the classiest of tropes – Love, inside the real ‘grief’. The film starts off in a pre rainy season. In the early portions the sky is shaded and cloudy. There isn’t an ounce of sun kissed photography or golden lights. The gorgeous Idukki love-letter pen by Rafeeq Ahamed and composed by Bijibal, cuts to the whole livelihood of the people, we see them chopping and drying up Kappa (tapioca) which is usually done before the rains, the cloudy climate is also evident in its atmosphere. When we are first introduced to Soumya, the love interest of Mahesh, it’s a funeral. The song Thelivezhilayakum plays in the background. It opens with a sweet little children’s chorus, which gets a purpose done without much hiccups. The purpose is simple, to fountainhead the romance by rooting a backstory to their relationship. Dileesh Pothen registers a coming-of-age romance and a classic eye-meets-eye meet up with the song montage as a prop. And the lyrics that accompanies speaks of…
“Kaanathe melake jalakanamuthirum
Mazhayude kalivaakkil adimudi nanayum
Ee mannilum, neer thullikal
Udhirnethi aliyum puthumazhamanikal”
“We are fully drenched by droplets
Thrown by the rain in jest
In this soil, drops come scattering, come mingling
Coolness comes in heart with a fresh fragrance”
The droplets of rain are supposed to give the comfort of coolness. These portions from the female pov is a jest, but it’s a rather deceit by design. A classic way of romanticising love is painting attributions with rain and nature. In the film, Dileesh uses these literary devices as a form of subversion. The whole film stresses much on “subversion” too, and nevertheless, the second half is a reverberation of this creative subversion– where every expectation goes downhill, the seasons and emotions getting transcended and the feeling of being flattered after seeing such an honest portrait of Life on-screen. Coming back to the song, After the first stanza, we get it rooted from the pov of Mahesh’s mindscape. After the sprinkling melancholy of female verse, the male vocals are rather imbued with vibrance.
Irumanasin thaazhil nanavukalezhuthi
Aa kannilum ee kannilum
Oraayiram nilaavinte thiranira ozhuki
Padavukalil puzha kayari“
“The new raindrops of first love
Wrote in our hearts as dampness
In that eye and this eye
A thousand foamy waves flowed
The steam rose on the steps”
After the both stanza gets wrapped, Sowmya says “The lovers know in their hearts, an ecstasy coming from the sky”.
The showering droplets of first rain, counterfaiths the relationship of Mahesh and Sowmya, when they meet after a while. The instance is beautifully metaphorical, eyes and eyes meet, rain showers as love. But incidentally what’s shown on screen is a stark contrast to the lines which romanticize rain as love. In Maheshinte Prathikaram, rain denotes ‘grief’ and the dark clouded sky is a red-herring thrown at us for anticipating the upcoming scattered events in Mahesh’s Life.
I couldn’t admire Dileesh Pothen’s calibre enough to use the medium of song’s to instantly root the spectator to the emotional graph of the narrative. Of course, songs are basically tools for emotional amplification. But Pothen’s modus operandi is quite different as most of the narrative fluctuations and fleeting moments happen within these songs – the romance from Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum is a setting example. His films don’t have any outlandish music videos as well. When we get a stretch of Sowmya’s confused mindscape whether to forgo the relationship or not, it comes to an epilogue when Mahesh has to carry a cross, a literal cross, which he has made an oath for, earlier in the film. A short song, Pookkalam Poymaranju is used.
The sky bleaks dark clouds again when Mahesh’s life gets ripped apart with two instances – (1) Sowmya betrays him (2) He gets humiliated in the junction by Jimson. Dileesh Pothen resorts to a montage-song again. And the story-telling gets propagated by visuals. The poignant Cherupunchiri Innale is synchronized to visuals with overtones of green and blue connoting to Mahesh’s grief. It’s lyrics embody the foregone happiness of yesterdays and lost coolness in the breeze. When the lines “Kanneerpoo veezhum nertha naadham ketto (Hear the soft sound of tears falling)” reaches, the rain showers for real like, parallely to the about-to-wet eyes of Mahesh. The steamy flowing heart (as described in the previous song) is now keeping endless silence. Interestingly the lyrics for this song are written by Santhosh Varma and not Rafeeq Ahammed, yet it beautifully manifests the arc hitting connections.
On the day of Sowmya’s marriage, His about-to-wet eyes, hurdled by masculinity, are bleaked. He smiles with shrewd sadness to Sowmya. But he couldn’t resist not to cry out loud in private. This is when it starts to rain heavily in Maheshinte Prathikaram. When Mahesh leaves to the studio, his Chachan stops him saying Let the rain relent. Rain only stops when Sowmya leaves town. It’s time for Mahesh to move on. But the grief lasts until the retribution to Jimson is finished and the pain of lost love gets comforts.
We are promised a revenge, and thrown to anticipate a hero villain cat and mouse play, perhaps? But that doesn’t seem to happen since the antagonist vanishes for real. He doesn’t come back inside the course of the film for a long time. We don’t even get informed about him either. Maheshinte Prathikaram rather makes an exponential of ordinary ‘Life’ by subverting the narrative clichés. And, just like that the dark sky’s/rain too vanquishes from the film. It’s summer and the bright blue sky returns. Syam pushkaran writes a beautiful ‘redemption’ which is also a resurrection of sorts. He realises the art of photography and for that, faith binds him with Jimsi. When the redemption as a photographer is facilitated (as Jimsi approves Chettan Supera near a charmingly sun-kissed window), Mahesh’s love starts to bloom as well.
Dileesh Pothen resorts again to a song-montage, now with the best possible music of Bijibal, Mounangal sung by Vijay Yesudas and Aparna Balamurali (Jimsi herself) plays loud. Rafeeq Ahamed’s lines goes by,
“Mounangal mindumoree nerath,
Mohangal peyyumoree theerathu
Ithuvare thirayuvathellam manasinzhayil
Ariya shalabamay varavaay“
(At this time when silence is speaking
On the shore where desires are showering
Whatever we searched till now
Come as beautiful butterflies in the petals of heart)
Innen nenjam neelakasham
(Today, my heart is a light blue sky)
Silence starts to speak and desire starts to shower. It’s summer again in the life of Mahesh allegorical to how the film transcends seasons. The second phase of Mahesh, which has as much importance to the sun and sky, would probably be Shyju Khalid’s best work as a cinematographer. And the montage, again, is beautifully realised. The first part traces the progress of their relationship and the second part starts as soon when Mahesh gives his nod. Love is not spoken of words nor it’s traced down with heart-on-the-sleeve cheesiness in Maheshinte Prathikaram. It blooms like a flower, swans like a fish and glides through the sky – like Rafeeq Ahamad’s lyrics suggest (Aazhathil meenay neenthi varu nee, Aakasham neele paari varu nee), So does the song-montages and sky, which seamlessly carries the narrative forward. The revenge comes as an afterthought into the climax race– but more drama is interspersed between external factors.