Ee.Ma.Yau., On Prime Video: A King’s Burial, Undermined

It is about a great promise that a son gives his father and fails to fulfil – a grand, royal funeral
A still from "Ee Maa Yau", a story set in a coastal village in Kerala that centres around a funeral.
A still from "Ee Maa Yau", a story set in a coastal village in Kerala that centres around a funeral.

The only obvious thing in life after birth is death. One often hears old people explain how someone who is about to die can feel death looming around them. The same happens with Vavachan, a wanderer who has returned home after a long time. The only thing that he has to talk about is his death. He tells Eesi, his son, about how grand funerals used to be in olden times and how much he used to feel like dying just to have that experience. Eesi promises a king's burial for Vavachan and the next thing we know Vavachan is dead.

The death metaphors used in the movie are raw and real, starting with the duck that Vavachan brings that eventually becomes the dinner gravy, the destruction of the church altar built by Vavachan, the power cut in the village, Vavachan's possession of banned 500 rupee notes, etc.: all indicating a death or an end of a sort.

The series of events following his death are hilarious in a tragic way. Vavachan's brother is unhappy that he was invited to the funeral by a phone call and not in person. Eesi has to deal with Ayyappan, his friend bargaining for the coffin, and the newspaper guy's constant calls confirming the funeral time. Ideally, death is to be mourned by family, close relatives and friends of the deceased. But the reality of it is so brutal: Eesi hardly gets time to cry for his father, or to even feel sad. Before the nurse could even confirm the death, he is burdened with the responsibility to inform neighbours, acquaintances, the church and the press as well as other funeral activities.

Vavachan's dreams of a royal burial become a royal joke in the village, pumped up by the over-enthusiastic villagers, some good, some bad. Adding a jewel to the crown is the entry of Vavachan's 2nd wife and children who claim that Eesi murdered him. A funeral is supposed to be a get-together, with a little bit of howling and crying.

When in the end it is revealed that Vavachan indeed died of a heart attack and was not killed by his family, as per the popular belief, Eesi loses it. He decides to bury his father in his backyard and in a violent act, keeps all the nosy, annoying people away from himself and the dead body. Eesi finally gets the opportunity to break-down and mourn for his father. He asks for forgiveness for the farce the funeral has become. This is his only hope of a partial redemption.

Ee.Ma.Yau. is about the good, the bad and the ugly of death. Death is everyone's eventual reality and thus, like birth, deserves to be celebrated. As Vavachan rightly says, "pazhakam chenna manushyane polum vachekarutu" (even humans shouldn't be spared if they're old).

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