So what is so bleeding difficult about understanding this man?
Mannarthudi Jeyakrishnan is the son of a judge and a confidant of a pimp, scion of an respectable clan and a reveller with drink buddies, a graduate who physically labours in his own fields, penny pinching hard -bargainer who books the entire floor of a hotel for a friend's night out, is blunt mannered in speaking and capable of nuanced expression.When his friend Rishi mentions in passing his envy for the 'experiences' of the kids these days, Jeyakrishnan takes it upon himself to initiate his friend to the joys of the world. The 'other face' of his friend, takes Rishi by surprise. The morning after, he asks the pimp, ThangaL "edhu kaLi?" - which is put-on.
It is a question all of us ask of anyone we observe having two seemingly contradictory personalities. Rarely do we ask it aloud. Occasionally we ask it of ourselves.
When confronted with two faces the unanimous inclinations seems to call the baser one the truth and the other a mask. This itself is indicative of what we think is the natural state of man, isn't it?
We consider it quite duplicitous to maintain and apply a personalities at will. Sometimes we are sympathetic - oh the societal forces that force a man to do so. Sometimes we are not - what man is he who won't stand up to be what he 'truly' is.
Is it too unnerving to consider that he may want to be different things?
Having and Reaching
Man wants to expand the world that he inherits. He wants do and see more than has been possible in the world that he was brought into and nurtured. All this with a certain notion of his own specialness - "I have it in me to handle it, more than those around me have the capacity to". Such considerations are not without denial; as it can be overwhelming to consider that everyone in his ancestry was an individual who reached, deviated, changed and settled. Each with a strong notion of the 'specialness' of oneself.
But to attribute his 'dichotomy' only to the above, would mean subscribing, at least in part, to the common notion that man only 'truly' wants what cannot be taken as a given. Not true.
He wants what he already has just as much. Just that the notion of tradeoff is so strongly impressed upon us: ancient homilies about moustaches and porridges and modern exhortations to 'get out of your comfort zone'.
Our first take on Jeyakrishnan's dichotomy is 'one man at home/village and another man when away'. We find that almost synonymous with one man 'when he is a part of his settings' and another when 'he is an individual'. But he does not passively, helplessly accept his setting.He actively engages with it, as it quite clear from his character well before even Radha enters the scene.
Radha is from his social circle. Their families know each other, she is a college-goer and intelligent. As far as matrimonial blurbs go - just right. What attracts him however is that she didn't hesitate to put him in place in their first meeting. So much so that he, who has never invested in a woman - emotionally or otherwise - decides to propose marriage to her the very next day.
He refuses to consider that he would be creating an awkward moment for her, let alone increasing the possibility of rejection. It is almost as if he doesn't care one way or the other! He takes the rejection hard - hard in his own way that is, which means outwardly handling it just fine.
Wisdom and participation
When the pendulum oscillates later he rues to Rishi that the emotion that rises to the top is embarrassment. These attractions, love twiddles, pining, expectations - he says - are things he is a decade too old for. After spending his youth with respectful caution, he is now highly self conscious about entertaining these emotions. They were the preserve of others, while he himself seems to be looking on at the cycle of life like a wise old man.
So wise that he agrees to help Thangal initiate this new girl Clara.
He writes an invitation letter to her, as 'Mother Superior' from a monastery, to hoodwink her father to send her away from the house. He later meets her under the assumed name and personality of a timber contractor. His assigned task is to entice her with the offer of concubinage to see if she is likely to take it. If she does, she would prove not to be a good investment for Thangal.
In their first moment alone he cannot help asking Clara why she is here (for this rendezvous, deviating away from her life of normalcy) only to rebuffed that she didn't ask him the same question, did she?.
This is said without a trace of bitterness. Hers was no socioeconomic rebuff, questioning the oppressor etc. Just a simple deflection that seems to say that, such questions perhaps have no simple answers and one would do well not to grapple with them too much.
The term 'pretending' is itself used thoughtlessly when considering how meaningful the experience of the pretense itself is, to the alleged pretenders. Jacques Derrida - one of a series of names I intend to drop - is quoted to have said:"To pretend I actually do the thing: I have therefore only pretended to pretend"
Who is Jeyakrishnan if not everything that he claims to be? Is the drunken cheer of the timber contractor not Jeyakrishnan's own? As Thangal requested, he offers her a life of comfortable concubinage. He is quite convincing as the love-drunk drunk, when he makes the offer. Only we, the audience, are privy to the fact that it is insincere pre-planned deceit.
But now are we so sure about that too? After all didn't he already feel close to her by that time he could broach the topic. Did he shake his head awake to attend to the task he had taken up? Why do we have this gnawing feeling that, his words are powered by the sincerity of emotion, that is typical of a drunk man.
And then Clara asks him: mOnE thadi condracterE, nee yaaraa(m)?*
* loosely and prosaically translates to : dear timber contractor, who are you?
(to be continued)