At about 3 pm in the afternoon, the room suddenly felt dim. I looked up from my book and outside the window to a breathtaking orange glow. Dense clouds were veiling the sky with no hints of blue. The cool breeze brought the hypnotic fragrance of flowers. Myriads of birds chirping were mixed with a gentle noise of wind chime. I was lost in the moment, waiting for the rain, just to smell the fragrance of wet soil. Slowly, it started pouring and I no longer wanted to read but started enjoying the perks of being born in a hill station.
Time passed by, my aunt came into the room with a hot cup of tea. She turned on the television complaining, ‘It’s either no rainfall or heavy rainfall’. I generally avoid watching television with my aunt because she is one of those people who either watched serials or Polimer News. When she was not interested in either of those categories, she passed her time flipping through channels. We have rarely agreed on watching the same program.
Seeing me rolling my eyes at her, my aunt decided to land on a movie channel. Subconsciously, my aunt stopped when she saw Sachein movie. The scene which was playing is the one where the hero falls in love with the heroine who is happily drenching herself in the rain. Being herself, my aunt remarked, ‘Do the movie people know how freezing the rain in Ooty is? In the past half-century (subtly hinting at her age), she is the first person I have seen purposely getting wet in our climate’. I wanted to tell her that the rain scenes in most movies are commercialized. Like in Minnale, where the hero falls in love at first sight with the heroine while watching her dance in the rain. Instead, I kept quiet and insisted we watch something else. I stopped my aunt as soon as I saw ‘Indira’ streaming on Sun TV.
Being one of the best movies in the Tamil industry, directed by Suhasini Maniratnam with ARR's music and a memorable cast, there was no doubt as to why one watched the movie over and over again. It was a revolutionary movie, for having a female lead to fight against caste discrimination. Even though half the movie was over, we both gladly agreed to watch the rest of the movie. Watching a movie or reading a book gives a different impression at different stages in life. With age, maturity, and experience, the opinion on a previously watched movie changes. We understand the nuances of a movie better.
Another hour had passed by and we were both hooked to the movie. Outside, the rain had gone from a drizzle to a storm and had finally calmed down. Just then I had a ‘eureka’ moment. I realized that’s exactly how both our emotions were too. The movie mirrored the weather outside. The clever use of monsoon rain to portray the emotions of the lead character Indira was phenomenal. The villages were prone to flood during the rainy season. The death of Indira’s father changed her life from being a student to the one who is expected to lead. This drastic shift is symbolically portrayed by the visible change of season, marked by the song “Munn eruthan pooti” praying to the rain god. At one point in the movie when she could not talk sense into her people, she felt conflicted and hopeless as a leader. So, she decides to leave for the city. Incidentally, the weather in the movie changed from light rain to the storm reaching its peak. When she heard a child’s cry for help, she braved through the storm and became resolute to save her village. The heated debate on the oppressive nature of caste in the climax also has an oppressive weather, indicating the situation could end in violence. Instead, the movie finally ended on a positive note, uniting people, giving us goosebumps through the song “Ini Achcham Achcham Illai”.
My most memorable scene from the movie was when Indira’s mother drags her out of the hospital room saying she will not let her daughter die because she feels violated. She tells her to let the rain wash away this scar from her life. When most Indian parents are still struggling with how to respond to sexual abuse, the movie showed us how to not look at it as a taboo and blame the victim.
While I was contemplating this, my phone rang. I picked up the call nonchalantly. After discussing the record high rainfall, the possibility of flooding and the infuriating power cuts, I told my friend about my thoughts on the rain metaphor used in the movie ‘Indira’. As I told him that I haven’t come across any other movie symbolizing rain so beautifully to human emotions, my friend asked, “Haven’t you watched Iraivi yet?”. He told me about the three female leads’ different views on life, symbolized through the rain. One who wanted to break free from the shackles of society and finally does so. One who was not confined but doubting her decisions and getting confined in the end. One who has always been confined by society and has no way out.
“There is a scene in the restaurant where one of the female lead talks about rain......”, my friend stopped mid sentence as I yelled, “Wait. I don't want any spoilers.” Watching the gentle and steady rain outside, I asked,“Is the movie available in any OTT platform?” and just like that, another day in my pandemic passed by with the dooming monsoon rain, cinema, and a phone call.