A tryst with the nightingale
Posted on: 12:55 PM IST Jun 04, 2011
SCENE 1: Omanappuram Kadappuram The 78-year-old P K Medhini, nightingale of a bygone era, visits the beach where decades ago, she had played a major role in drawing crowds for a Communist party meeting. Not too happy with the director of the documentary for having made her walk on the beach sand, Medhini breaks into a smile when a woman selling fish came dashing to fondly caress her cheek. Medhinichechi..., she says in disbelief.Scene 2: T V Puram It was here that Medhini first saw a microphone, which she recalled as something that landed her in breathing problems! The notice that was distributed said Medhiniyum uchabhashiniyum undaavum and people really thought that uchabhashini (mike) was Medhinis sister. The crowd that gathered around her, showed her the exact spot where she had stood and sung the songs.Scene 3: The Travancore Coir Factory at Mararikkulam. None of the workers at this unit will ever forget Medhini just as they would not forget Meenakshichechi, the cultural activist who worked there and inspired Medhini to take up arts and music. All of them gathered around Medhinichechi to sing Red Salute.Wherever Medhini was taken to, be it the beaches, the Thumboli school where she studied or the spinning mills where she worked, or the memorials at Punnapra and Vayalar, she was almost immediately mobbed and they all invariably ended up singing. Obviously, there is not a soul in Kuttanad area who did not know Medhinichechi or her songs.A Minstral of Change (Mattangalude Paattukari), is how Sajitha Madathil has titled her biographical film on P K Medhini, the nightingale who with her folk-like songs drew in crowds for Communist party meetings in an era that had no microphones nor speakers. Together they took a walk down the proverbial memory lane, to come out with a captivating film, for the Public Relations Department.Actually, it was a film that just happened. I only had to take Medhinichechi to the places that had left a mark in her life. All the rest happened quite spontaneously, none of it was pre-meditated, says Sajitha, who is now busy with the post-production work of the film. Even the singing part, I had nothing to do with it. A crowd would gather and they would decide to sing a particular song. In fact, I wanted to take a shot of hers walking all alone. But she is so connected to people that it simply wasnt possible, she recalls.The spontaneity is what has made the film different. So is the camera by Shehnad Jalal, the State Award winner and the slick editing by Ajithkumar. Sajitha says the film is also a documentation of the songs, which owes its genesis to the ammanapattu, the krishipaattu and other traditional songs of the era. Each of those songs has a context which is related to the history of the area and directly connected to the people. It was absolutely a learning process for me, admits Sajitha. While the song Petti panapetti happened at the time when T V Thomas lost the elections, there were others against the police, the Diwans rule, the monarchy, the oppressors and so on.Just as the film moves on from one segment to the other, it is impossible not to notice the strength of the protagonist, and through Medhini, comes back to our midst some of the other social activist women of those times such as Kalikutty Asatty, Anasooya and Meenakshi, about whom nothing has really been written about. None of them have been big leaders per se, but have contributed in a huge way to the Communist movement.These padapattukar, as they were known, were almost wiped out with the arrival of KPAC on the political and social scenario, and Medhini had to go through some tough times after her husband died, leaving her with two daughters and no job. Even in those times, it was the working class which would collect money and give it to her . And for Medhinichechi, thats the greatest return she could get for her efforts, says Sajitha.Medhini now teaches little children simple little `nadanpattukal, checking their passage to oblivion. And the documentary film is as simple as her songs, sans any fancy frills. No narration. No monotony. An absolutely lively film, which would bring an added glow to Medhinis pleasant face, just as you see in the opening shots of the film.