Monday, April 16, 2018


Madi…మడి ...मडि

People from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and some pockets of Karnataka will perhaps understand what this word means...
Madi...this Brahmanical way of life originated from the concept of ‘purity’…a concept which, like all other traditions, lost its meaning in later years with its rigid and blind adherence.
Essentially madi meant keeping a distance from and not touching anything considered impure or unclean.
How it was practiced:
My grandmother would rinse her 9-yards saree the night before and hang it in the kitchen. The rod that she hanged it to dry would be placed way above anyone’s reach…close to the ceiling. To dry out one’s garment at that height was tricky indeed and was done with the help of a long stick pushing the garment hither-thither till it slid smoothly without folds over the rod. This practice also meant that the cloth couldn’t be touched by anyone else and become impure.
The next morning, after a bath, she would come, wrapped in a wet saree, heading straight to the kitchen, discard the old saree and wear the clean saree off the kitchen rod. This was normally worn as ‘adda-kacha’ meaning a garment that runs between your legs, dividing your legs trouser-like, giving you the liberty of free movement.
This was madi, a state considered pure. After attaining this pure state, you are not supposed to touch anything till the cooking and eating was done. No touching of beds, bed sheets, previous day’s discarded clothes, curtains, sofas, another human being… Considered safe was a chair with its cushions and covers set aside.
Once the cooking was done and the food eaten, you could change to another saree and then free to touch anything.
Breaking of Madi by accidently touching one of those not-to be-touched things or people meant a bath again and, as there was no back up madi saree, continue cooking in those wet clothes, sometimes shivering in the cold winter mornings, and with water dripping all over the kitchen floor.
Madi is even considered broken if you attend to nature’s call and you'd need a bath to purify yourself again.
Come pooja or festival and the rigorousness increased…more madi, more arduousness in following it, more fervour…
The flowers, coconut and all other things meant for pooja were to be strictly kept separate from cooking and dining areas. If any of the pooja stuff was kept on the dining table by mistake, it was considered impure and had to be washed before using it for pooja. The oil for pooja lamp was kept separately in the pooja room and was not to be touched or used in kitchen for cooking purpose.
Large canisters of oil or pickle could be touched only after madi and not any time we wished to use some.  Small quantities were kept in jars for everyday use.
Some madi rules during eating…
Serve food with left hand but every time you  touch any cooked food, wash your hand. This meant you had a puddle of water on the floor at your left by the time you finished your meal. All meals happened sitting on the floor, of course. Serving uncooked food like oil/ghee/salt/pickle/curd did not mandate washing your hand. Later, and especially after the meals started happening at the dining table, this ritual translated to tilting your glass of water ever so slightly…just enough to wet your fingertips! Who’d want those puddles of water on your table?!
My grandmother though, never ever in her life time ate at the table. The tables only get wiped, they never get washed like the floor, no?
In the night again, the madi saree was ready for getting rinsed and dried again. This saree was not washed along with clothes of the entire household.
This practice was carried through her lifetime.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018


Can something in this world be described as being ‘too’ perfect?
Sukumar, the director of Rangasthalam, has achieved the state of near-perfection with this movie. So perfect in fact, that it’s eerie!
While watching a film through a critic’s eye, one tries to see beyond what is apparent on screen. Waiting to watch for discrepancy in the screenplay, maybe a backdrop that should not have been in a period film, a garment that looks a tad too modern, a diction that betrays a background that’s not in line with the ethnicity portrayed in the movie…
Rangasthalam is a tad too perfect. The hero’s beard, for example, is the perfect length and trimmed oh-so-well, with not a hair out of place. The hero's is hard of hearing. Because there is never a flawless human being, no?
Again, there is no irrelevant moment in the movie. Before you start wondering, the deafness too has a role to play.
The one place I caught him out, was when he calls the ‘doctor’ with a soft ‘r’ ending and not ‘daaktar’ as normally the villagers might do….
But let me set aside the mind that looks to nit-pick…
The movie is charming. It has a great script supported by some great acting.
Everyone has done his/her best in the allotted roles. Ram Charan is supported by a strong author-backed role. Samantha may not have an equal screen presence in terms of the length of the role but how well she lights up the screen when she appears on it! And how natural she looks in her simple non-matching cottons!
And no, she isn't just a dumb belle. She was the first among the villagers, in fact, who questions the President's clique about the debt repayment, mentioning that she was '6th-pass' and therefore knows that she had actually repaid the loan and owes nothing more.
The simple dance moves are a delight to watch…reminding you of how you hop, skip and jump around when you feel happy and there’s no one to watch you.
Naresh and Rohini as Ram Charan’s parents, Aadi as the brother and Jagapathi Babu and Prakash Raj are so right for their roles! Jagapathi babu, especially, portrayed as a man of a few words, makes for such menacing presence!
The story is about how the villagers of Rangasthalam live like frogs in a well, thinking that this is how their lives are meant to be…living in poverty and debt, believing that the President of the village is their God and savior.
But Aadi, Ram Charan’s brother, who is educated and Dubai-returned, makes the villagers realise the need for changing their leader.
What ensues is, politics at its worst…wicked deeds executed silently.
The movie keeps you riveted through all its twists and turns. Didn’t feel it was 180 minutes long.
Do see the movie on big screen. You will come back feeling it is worth it.
People, who aren’t Ram Charan fans will also succumb to this simple, yet, engaging movie.