There’s more to August 15th than just freedom from alien clutches and Mohan Sharma has stepped forward to throw light on one of the shaking injustices – a portion of which still, unfortunately prevails in the country. Taking on the helms of producer, director and a primary character in the film, Mohan Sharma brings to us a story that ends in India’s independence, with ‘Namma Gramam’. For those who thought history is boring and passive, this is the film that you were probably waiting for, to change your prejudiced ideology. Taking a rustic story in as colourful and lively screenplay as possible, Mohan Sharma has come out with a clean, involving and thought provoking entertainer.
Mohan Sharma hails from a traditional Brahminic family, in the story predominantly set in an Iyer Agraharam near Palghat. Sharma sticks to values and traditions to the word, and believes in a devoted lifestyle; but by nightfall, the same respectable man sneaks out to share his night with another lady. Sharma’s wife who knows yet ignores this is still in acceptance of the atrocity under the emotional fancy terminology of ‘thaali baagyam’ – the boon of being a ‘sumangali’ or having a live and healthy husband. Sharma is in eternal disappointment regarding his son Kannan’s dismal performance at school, and periodically takes out his anger on the little boy. The main story spins off when Sharma’s sister’s daughter Shamvrudha is married off at a very young age to a little boy from the neighbouring village – in effect, child marriage, which was a prevalent custom back in the pre-independence times. As fate would have it, the little groom succumbs to snake bite on his return journey just after the wedding, widowing the little girl, who is barely the age to understand marriage or death.
As was the tradition, the girl is virtually house-arrested; she is not to venture out on the streets, removed from the school, not to dress up like other girls, was restricted from playing, and is put in the inner darkness of the house – the ‘rendam kattu’ of the olden day houses. Only one rule is relaxed for her; considering her tenderly young age, the Shamvrudha’s head is not tonsured, against the regulations set for a widow of a Brahmin family. Shamvrudha grows up jailed inside the house, listening to music that seeps in through the neighbourhood. Kannan also grows up to a young man, fit to be put in the marriage market. Sharma grows increasingly worried over the delay of the lad’s marriage, and decides to consult an astrologer, who points out his not adherance to the custom or ‘aacharam’. Realising his mistake, Sharma decides to shave Shamvrudha’s hair on August 15th. Displaying her protest, the young lady’s grandmother sets herself on fire to death. Kannan rises up to the occasion; compelled by the situation to relieve Shamvrudha of her suffering, the lad decides to give her a new life by marrying her. And thus is born independence to a young widow in a humble Agraharam, on August 15th, as the entire nation rejoices the very day in 1947.
‘Namma Gramam’ is applauded for a lot many dimensions and respects. To begin with, the story is narrated from the year 1938 – practically every reason for boredom. But there is not a moment of dullness in the gripping story line, until it ends in the independence celebration. Every character stands out in its own regard, with the all the members of the cast putting in their best for a realistic and appealing movie experience. The scenes where the seasoned actress Sukumari pleads as the affectionate grandmother, not to shave Shamvrudha’s hair and when she arranges her own death pyre and sets herself on fire are moving beyond words. Dr. Radhika on the other hand plays the underestimated mentally ill lady, who is practically wise in her own way, registering a lasting mark with her carefully worded dialogues. Directing the story on a highly captivating screenplay, Mohan Sharma has set a standard for himself with ‘Namma Gramam’ as a cauldram of creativity. Thanks to Madhu Ambat for not boring the screenplay with out-of-the-way dull tones to simulate pre-independence, and for making the movie experience enjoyable. P.N Sundaram has ensured to deliver a beholding story by backing it with the music just right as the mood demands. In all, ‘Namma Gramam’ is the latest outlook, in the very austere manner, on a woman’s unduly suffering and her endurance and eventual independence.