Sunday, May 19, 2024

2018: Jude’s theology to make everyone hero

In his interview on Cue Studio with Maneesh Narayanan, Jude Anthany Joseph brings multiple instances of pressing upon his faith in God. He affirms multiple divine interventions in his growth from an immature person to the director of one of the recent biggest hits of the Malayalam industry. He places the solution to multiple crises he faced during scripting and production as the help of God when he sees the final output in the theatres. He calls it a divine destiny that Tovino Thomas, who was trolled as “Pralayam star (flood star)” previously during the flood, now turning out to be a real pralayam star in the cinema. Even he marks the film as the location not to find the rational answers of “why there was a flood in 2018?” but rather to look at the possibility of bringing in the “everyone is a hero” perspective into the front. This article tries to understand how the director’s faith in God would have influenced him or set the tone of such a complicated narrative of 2018, made on the most significant flood in Kerala history that took almost 500 lives and affected by sixth of Kerala’s total population.  

Two excuses I make here. First, the article is written the next day I watched the film from the mere memories of the film and not through a deep watch to assert my faith that there is nothing more challenging to create and easier to consume so intensely affecting all our senses, but cinema. 

 Second, Jude is a Christian, and the movie is made in a Christian perspective. I am a Muslim, so what I write here is an image of a Muslim writer who has knowledge of the theology of Islam on the influence of the Christian theology of a director.   

Spoiler Alert: those who have not watched the film. Stop reading from here. 

The director starts the movie with a shot from the arid lands of Tamil Nadu on the opposite side of Mullapperiyar, who eagerly waits for the flow of the Mullaperiyar dam so that they can get the water on the other side. The overflow of Mullapperiyar is one apocalyptic fear that haunted Kerala for years through visual excess provided by media and politicians, especially during election times. Thus, the beginning places the viewer on the graph to see that a bad for us could be good for others. In the following sequence, the lorry driver who belongs to the dry lands of Tamil Nadu beats up a man (who seems to be a Keralite) for washing his face with bottled drinking water and then tells him to understand the value of the water.

When the state and the cinema reach the peak of the flood, which forces the fishermen community to become the saviours of their brethren on the plane lands, they are inspired by the pastor in a church from the coastal area. The church rings the bell to gather all the fisher folks. The pastor makes his statement to call his little lambs to carry their boats to the shore and actively engage with the water to save the people, which is their responsibility at the time. 

Why there was a parallel story of a village facing water scarcity? Why the Lorry driver beats another one over water? Why the church played the most important role in the cinema? Why there was no answer to the phone call made by the dam worker? We might have to try to find the answer outside the cinematic screen.

Let’s re-read each of the above incidents. God’s test falls on the earth in the form of rain to see how humans are responding. If you could lift the veils of your naked eyes, God might have intended a good side of your trial for someone struggling for years. This trial could result from the deeds you might have committed or teach you a lesson about water or your life and how easy for God to send you to the camps from the second floors of your elite class houses. The church or religion calls for you to accomplish your responsibility as human beings under challenging trials: to serve humanity; in the film as the fisher folks. The director keeps it in doubt, saying that the dam’s opening or the bureaucracy’s mistake in dealing with the dam was the reason for the flood. In the film, when the tree gets stuck at the dam’s shutters, the worker calls and says that there is a problem. Still, the film never addresses this problem throughout, instead takes the viewer to the different aspects of human behaviour caused by the flood. Breaking the tradition of Malayalam films and Kerala’s public conscience, “Be a human above your religion”, the director places that humanity is greatly influenced by religiosity. 

In the chapter Al Kahf (the cave), Qur’an narrates the story of Moses and Khidar. Moses once told his fellow men that there is no knowledgeable man on earth more than him. Thus the lord sends him on a voyage on a ship with Khidr to make him understand the vastness of knowledge. Khidr sets the condition that Moses should not question his acts, however strange they could be unless the journey ends. Over this condition, Moses violates the promise each time when Khidr does strange actions. First, he slices a ship and drowns it, then kills a soul and builds a wall for the villagers who are not ready to serve them food. Each of these was questioned by Moses, and he apologized under the earlier promise. But Khidr finally, after being frustrated by Moses’ questions, answers them. He lifts the veil before the human eyes (here of Moses) to see the unknown knowledge that inspired Khidr’s act, who could see something that can not be seen with human eyes. He explains the reasons for all three incidents, unseen by Moses’ human eyes. If there is any medium that can actually visualize the unseen of the naked eyes through the imagination, that is cinema, which is where the director places the flood.

The film is not keen to know the rational reasons for the flood. He is not eager to show the viewers what the dam worker talked through the phone. But he allows enough screen time and space to lift the veil through the attempt to see the other side of Kerala. When Kerala was flooding with the water across, Jude Anthany showed the lorry driver’s daughter on the other side of the veil, enjoying the rain in her courtyard.

The deluge of catastrophe on one side ends the drought on the other side. He also tries to say that religiosity is the factor that played a major role in Kerala’s recovery from the crucial catastrophe through the rescue operations, thus side-lining Kerala’s public consciousness to understand that we have to grow above religion to be the best human. Rather the film and its director said that the best human acts are inspired by religiosity itself, in this case, Christianity.

Faseeh Ahmad EK
Faseeh Ahmad EK
Faseeh Ahmad EK is a media researcher and writer interested in sports, communities, and local cultures.

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