Analyse. Subtext. Decode. There’s an obvious surge in the usage of these words following the release of a new Mysskin film. Wikipedia too works overtime owing to fresh demand from the South of India with the page views of ‘Japanese Noh Theatre’, ‘The Films Of Kurosawa And Bresson’ and ‘Buddhist Imagery’ suddenly spiking. Even those who are usually only looking for story and performances in a film, get ready to watch one of Mysskin’s with special microscopes. In other words, it’s not about Easter anymore as much as it is about finding the Easter eggs.
Not that anyone’s complaining because that’s exactly what makes rewatching a Mysskin film so much fun. By now, his world or his cinematic universe is familiar to a lot of us. There are hundreds of films about the visually impaired, but such a character’s mere appearance in a Mysskin film has achieved mythical proportions by now. The same goes with paintings/statues of Buddha, popping up every now and then like Subhash Ghai used to in his own films. The shot of feet, the wide shots, the violins, the garbage cans, the heroine in yellow…it’s like we’re waiting for his films to throw as many ‘Mysskinisms’ at us.
Psycho too is filled with dozens of these like when a weeping mother is right at the centre of the screen as she shouts ‘Kadavule’, staring right at the camera that’s looking down on her in full God’s eye view. After a shot of the windmills, which look like powerful giants peering down on tiny people, we get a shot of Gautham, our protagonist, as though the ‘Kadavule’ was addressed to him. This protagonist is a combination of two Mysskinisms…a blind man as well as a violinist (he plays for Zubin Mehta, apparently). When he’s pondering, you can see him sitting right under the mural of a banyan tree, much like THE Buddha, but you already know this by now. You also know that he’s stalking Dagini (Aditi Rao Hydari), the light to his darkness, someone he’s fallen in love with only because of her voice (she’s an RJ). Looking at the film from Dagini’s POV changes a lot of things about the film though. It’s not just about a hero rescuing his lover after she gets kidnapped. Through her eyes, it’s about hoping your stalker is so good at stalking that he will follow you all the way into the lair of a psychopath.
The Ramayana connection in the film is obvious too. Gautham (Ram) has to save Dagini (Sita) from Anguli, the Ravanan who kidnaps her. The DSP character played by Ram, then, becomes a stand in for Hanuman, a character that visits Sita to comfort her. By now, we’ve also acknowledged how the film is based on the story on how THE Bhudda transforms a brigand named Angulimala into a saint. Themes from Christianity are all around the film as well. The idea of redemption and punishment at the centre, images of Jesus and Mother Mary make up the film’s best moments. Add to the mix that the ONLY truly helpful policeman in the film is a man named Akbar, that too with an ability to foresee the future (he knows that the DSP is going to get killed), and we get a film which brings in elements from four major religions.
I have one more case to add to this. The wedding reception they attend at the start of the film is that of Rajadurai and Shakuntala’s. Now this is probably nothing, but do you remember what Dagini leaves behind when she’s kidnapped by Anguli at the railway station? A ring. In a sense, like the King Dushyant, Gautam too begins her search for her after he finds Dagini’s ring (which he later returns to her upon finding her).
Even when she’s being kidnapped, just as she loses her consciousness, she finds comfort seeing Gautham walk towards her. She’s not afraid nor is she struggling. There’s even a smile on her face. You see the same smile again later just moments before Anguli swings hard to chop off her head. Had Dagini not seen Gautham walk towards her at the station, and without the courage that gave her, wouldn’t she have been Anguli’s 14th victim?
On the second viewing, you wonder why Anguli takes that extra effort to make Dagini wear her slippers (the shot of feet!), right before he’s supposed to behead her? And what’s the deal with those odd shots of the man either bathing, sleeping or playing with his dog in a place that looks straight out of the Psychopath’s Edition of Architectural Digest? But then, this rewatch also gets you to notice the cleverer things like how the hacker, who helps Anguli trace Gautham, is a big fan of Madonna. When the hacker dies, he even kisses a poster of Madonna on the wall. Skip past the pages on Madonna the entertainer on Google and you learn that Madonna is “a representation of Mary, either with or without child Jesus.” Which is what the film is really about. A son, after having sinned, seeking to be forgiven by his mother. Even in the ritual, he first begs his teacher to be forgiven before he moves to Dagini. The former refuses but the latter obliges when she gives him the keys, both physical as well as metaphorical, (a phallic symbol as admitted by Mysskin himself) to set him free.
And later, when Dagini in a press conference, explains how she saw the kid in Anguli, it sets him free again. So much so that he too smiles as he plunges to a peaceful end onto his mother’s lap (‘Thai Madiyil’) in one of the most beautifully cinematic re-imagination of Michaelangelo’s Pieta.
What Mysskinisms can you add to this list?