Padmarajan’s Clara – Part I

[ I am a great admirer of writer-scriptwriter-director Padmarajan’s movies like any other Malayali. After watching his movie Thoovaanathumpikal, I was fascinated by it’s leading lady character Clara. This post is the first of a two-part post that tries to explain how Clara stands out as one of the most powerful woman characters of Malayalam cinema ]

Padmarajan is a director who has given some of the best on-screen characters of Malayalam cinema. Female characters have important roles to play in his films but not at the cost of side-lining the male characters; just like any other typical commercial movies of our times. However, there are a couple of movies in which he portrayed some of the most powerful women characters of Malayalam cinema. And I think Clara, the prostitute from the movie Thoovaanathumpikal, stands out from the rest and is one of the most powerful women characters of Malayalam cinema to the date.

Thoovaanathumpikal (meaning Butterflies in the Spraying Rain) is a much talked about film of Padmarajan where the praises have gone to actor Mohan Lal for his portrayal of Jayakrishnan, a man with complex characteristics (and Mohan Lal has done his job perfectly well). But very little has been written about it’s women characters – Radha (played by Parvathi) and Clara (played by Sumalatha) – but they are proof of Padmarajan’s craftsmanship.

Padmarajan’s Clara is not a typical woman character usually portrayed in Malayalam cinema (or Indian cinema). Clara is not a shy village girl who would surrender herself in love before a man and then would spend her entire life in grief if she was cheated. Here Clara is an exact opposite to the female lead of Padmarajan’s another movie, Novemberinte Nashtam. The leading girl of Novemberinte Nashtam is a happy-go-lucky girl who falls in love with a man who uses her only for the physical pleasure and leaves her in a mental shock which in turn makes her a murderer. But Clara is very practical and ambitious. She chooses the way of prostitution to save herself from her step mother, but she does not want to end up with a pimp who would extract money out of her. She even manages to get Jayakrishnan, the male protagonist, like a firefly to the light, but she doesn’t want to be the reason for his misery. In Thoovaanathumpikal, Clara does not appear throughout the movie but it is she who drives the whole story.

To understand the powerful nature of Clara, we must first look into Jayakrishnan and see what kind of a person he is. Jayakrishnan is an unpredictable character. In his village and neighborhood he is a good person coming from a noble family, born to a late retd. justice and a hard-working farmer. But in the town, he has friends from all walks of life and he enjoys life thoroughly with it’s worldly pleasures. But contrary to his ultra-male egoistic nature he has made a vow not to spoil any girl’s virginity and in case if that happens he has decided to make that girl his wife.

Clara’s presence in the movie is always accompanied by rain (and the beautiful background music given by music director Johnson). It rains when Jayakrishnan writes his first letter to Clara, pretending to be the mother superior of a convent. Jayakrishnan does that for his friend Thangal who is a pimp trying to get Clara in to the ‘business’. It was the time when Clara’s step mother wanted to get rid of her and her father was made to believe that Clara was going to join a convent. Thangal did not know how to write a good letter so he asks for Jayakrishnan’s help to write as the Mother Superior of the convent.

The next step is to test Clara’s allegiance to Thangal. Jayakrishnan again comes to the scene to help Thangal to know whether Clara would stay with him or would leave his company if she was offered a better life with a rich man. So Jayakrishnan dresses up as a rich businessman named Punnoose and have sex with her. But just before making love Jayakrishnan wants to know if Clara had been in love with anyone – the male ego that expects a first time prostitute to be a virgin even in love-life. Soon after making love, Jayakrishnan realizes that he is in love with Clara.

[To be continued…]

(Image courtesy: Wiki & Internet)