Failed in depicting history: Can Bollywood learn from Malayalam ‘Urumi’?



As it is said; any piece of History, as it is, can never be relied upon! History is written by victors. And victors would never tell the story from both perspectives. Any accountability of war or events will always be written and documented by people who won. This happens with every nation that has endured invasion and colonization!

With that comes the critical issue of catching a historical streak or representing factual history in Indian cinema. The roots of controversy for the movies in India i.e. recent for Padmaavat also lie here. Running for extravagance and glitz, our movie makers often lose to present the substance that should come out from history tales when it goes to play via reel. We witness it very well in cinema abroad when subject deals history and the depiction of things satisfy the viewers on the every element of story-telling. Even after Padmaavat watched and invited the reactions, one can easily find the movie nothing but dwells around negetive character that shades so-called protagonist. Perhaps this may be reason of Shahid Kapoor’s outburst that he felt like an outsider on the sets of Padmaavat, reflected in his fresh statement. It’s rare that an Indian movie represents the history to connect its natives in right sense and compels them to become educated and to erode the history they read in their books. A Malayalam movie Urumi can be judged in this context that comes out very fair to show ‘right history’.

Urumi (2011) is a Historical Action Drama, tells the story of a warrior Chirakkal Kelu Nayanar (fictional) who rebelled against the Portuguese. It builds grounds for narrating an alternative perspective of our tainted history. Urumi is an excellent piece of Cinematic experience, which definitely takes you back to 15th century Kerala and reveal you the actual face of the ballyhoo, Vasco Da Gama. Today, in our country where Vasco Da Gama is celebrated as a man who bridged East and West, this movie had laid out some brutal facts and truths about atrocities and ruthless policies he implemented in Kerala under the motive of trade!


A still from Malayalam Movie ‘Urumi’

Yes, he did it for pepper! At those times, when the white-skinned had nothing but salted meat and rice to eat, Pepper and spice fantasies caught the eye of the Portuguese! Urumi absolutely did a messiah job by not creating a fascinating Vasco and presenting the raw truth behind the disharmony and ruckus between Clans of Kerala. The politics played by Portuguese by implanting their whisperers inside the great houses of Kerala paved a promenade for them to get inside our country! The movie also narrates how the presence of Portuguese army ready to spit a thousand cannonballs towards the ‘Arackal’ and ‘Chirakkal’ forts guarding the northern frontier of Kerala, dwarfed Indian peasants and the internal trade which was the backbone of our economy. In the movie, Chenicheri, the sides of the Chirakkal King was the chief whisperer of Portuguese as Vasco had promised Authority over Lakshadweep Islands to him. It was the deceit of Chenicheri and his men that avalanched our lands into Portuguese hands. Urumi astutely points out Vasco as evil!


‘Urumi’ shows Vasco Da Gama – a Portuguese invader and his atrocities on Indian natives. This is never taught in books.

After extensive research, Filmmaker Shankar Ramakrishnan, screenwriter of Urumi, said that the film presents history with an alternate perspective. He stated “Urumi is an attempt to portray or rather discuss the many realities that could have affected the course of our history. The purpose of the movie is to educate the audience on the real face of Vasco Da Gama.”

In an interview, Actor and Co-Producer Prithiviraj said that cast has been selected from all industries as this film, as an independent piece, needs to travel across the nation and globally. We all filmmakers have the responsibility to project this to mass audience.

Urumi crosses boundaries and defeats the purpose of victor’s history! After watching the movie, you simply cannot rule it out as a fictional piece of storytelling! It is history, and that is what happened! Many films in the past and recent times have loose streaks of history and have shown grave mistakes in depicting true history! In the current case of Padmaavat who gave an intentional or unintentional pedestal of stardom to Alauddin Khilji’s character, it is debatable whether the filmmaker served the purpose of depicting the emotions and sentiments of the Rajputs or not.

History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future” 

– Robert Penn Warren

 

The point here is to highlight the responsibility of representing versions of history which is authentic and undiluted and told from our perspective! With diversity reaching its peak in our society, it is undoubtedly an artist’s responsibility to row society’s boat into true waters! Cinema holds mass sentiment. So, filmmakers have this gargantuan responsibility on them! If you research thoroughly, only a handful artists dare to present history from our perspective. There is a massive void of nativeness in Indian cinema. Call it propaganda or not, many so-called ‘historical’ films fail to reach us. The ‘why’ to this, is a question and an answer to itself, an answer which constantly keeps failing!

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