Namukku Parkkan Munthrithoppukal trashed all norms that judged a woman, in the most romantic way.
This might sound like a grand claim devoid of statistical evidence, but I will not shy away from saying that every true Malayali would have seen Namukku Parkkan Munthrithoppukal. It’s at the altar of this movie that a Malayali learns to love, and love well. There’s never been a dialogue in a Malayalam film that could hold a candle to ‘Avide vechu njan ninakkende premam tharum’, “There, in the lush flowering vineyards, I’ll give you my love”. Artfully borrowing these words from the biblical book of Song of Solomon, Mohanlal, Solomon, proposes to Shari, Sophia, inviting her to his ‘munthiri thoppukal’, his vineyards, offering his love. Your heart will rise and fall at the lyrical rendering of this moment. You will realize Solomon and Sophia just became immortal for you. And yet, this is not the highest note of the movie.
Even before they silently establish their love for each other, Sophia doesn’t hesitate to tell Solomon that her mother bore her out of wedlock, and the man whom she calls ‘daddy’ is her stepfather. She shares this unflinchingly, with no trace of anxiety about what a prospective lover might think of her and her family. He hears her without making any judgment. As trusting as Sophia was, as worthy of the trust was Solomon. There was no need for any façade; the truth was genuinely given and graciously taken, not threatened by any ideals. They smile and there is calm, as the new lovers stand together on a hill accompanied only by the breeze. Remember, this is the 1980s and this undisturbed acceptance dented many a convention.
The breeze flows throughout the movie, waving through the grasslands of Mysore. Maybe it was this Mysorebreeze that prompted director Padmarajan to shoot this classic here. Another time Padmarajan, adored for his craft and the unorthodox themes, liberally used nature in his narrative was in ‘Thoovanathumbikal’. There it was rain, not the romantic type but pouring and enchanting, just like how its romance was. Here in Namukku Parkkan, Padmarajan chose Mysore’s unhurried demeanor to reflect the mature charm of its characters. No other place could have possibly rendered the story this calm charisma as Mysore did. And, maybe that is why for Malayalis this city holds such a special place in their hearts. For me, I can not separate Mysore from Namukku Parkkan, and my mind automatically slips into its background score; a masterpiece that it is.
Mysore may stand witness to Sophia and Solomon’s love story, but Solomon’s ‘Munthiri Thoppukal’ is elsewhere. He promises to take Sophia to these vineyards of his where he reigns in absolute freedom. He is not the typical bachelor; he is a proud farmer who chooses to travel on the farm truck, the honks of which announce his surprise arrivals at his mother’s house, and he lives on his terms. In stark contrast, for Sophia, her freedom couldn’t even stretch beyond finishing her tenth grade. That’s why stepping across those white fences that separated their house and Solomon’smother’s, fractured the power equation that her step-father, Paul Pailokkaran, had over her.
Pailokkaran, played by the brilliant thespian Thilakan, will forever remain unforgivable. We dislike him for his misplaced sense of entitlement and pseudo righteousness that he displays by constantly reminding Sophia’s mother that he did a ‘favour’ by marrying her, a woman who bore a child out of wedlock. His blatant discrimination between his daughter and Sophia irks us.
When Pailokkaran shows his disapproval for Sophia and Solomon’s relationship, we do try to give him the benefit of doubt; trusting that this behavior showcases a fatherly concern for his daughter’s well-being. But his looks are unsettling, his words revolting. And that day when we find him alone with Sophia in the house, everything changes. We sense the extent of his evil; we pray this shouldn’t happen; we hope someone walks into that house at that moment. But no, Namukku Parkkan is real. Pailokkkaran rapes Sophia, leaving us feeling utterly distraught.
The transparency with which the characters interact with each other is remarkable. When Sophia’s mother finds her daughter after the incident, she screams out loud. She knows Solomon and his mother are just outside the house and would rush in. She was concerned only about her daughter and the injustice that she was subjected to. There was no hushing in the name of honour. Likewise, Solomon’s mother couldn’t hide her disapproval of how uncommonly complicated Sophia’s family was. She does make an effort to support the relationship but becomes enraged at how the family’s problems slowly but surely were sucking her son in. She wants Solomon out of it. And Sophia, who never hid anything from Solomon, doesn’t even think of covering up the rape.
From those unsure moments where Sophia thinks that Solomon might not be able to accept her, to the absolutely sure honks of Solomon’s truck waiting outside her house to take her with him, the movie redraws the lines of every possible social norm. We realize that the rape hadn’t changed a thing between Solomon and Sophia.
Storming the fenced gate, and raging through the courtyard, handing those much-deserved blows to Sophia’s father, Solomon reaches Sophia, takes her hands and asks, ‘You said you will come when you hear the second honk!’ She looks at him and says ‘I thought..’ and pauses. In that pause, everything transpires – trust, love, respite, and reassurance.
For him, it was never Sophia’s fault. It was not her fault that she was born out of wedlock, stopped from studying after tenth grade, that his mother thought her family to be disreputable, or that she was raped. On her part, Sophia did not think of Solomon as the proverbial prince charming who would save her from the wretched life that her step-father was putting her through. She had set no expectations when she fell in love with him and did not think of herself as a destitute looking for help.
Now in each other’s arms, there was no give and take of pity, no fear of social stigma. Solomon takes Sophia away on his truck, to his vineyards, generously filling us with their emotional and social maturity.
As the truck moves, Solomon’s younger cousin, Antony, who lives with Solomon’s mother, stands behind as witness. Antony had always looked up to Solomon and now when he looks, we know he will turn out to be a good man
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.