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Chemmeen Extra Special

Chemmeen, which means "Shrimp," is positively the best Malayalam movie I have ever seen. It is based on a novel of the same name written by Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai (actually Pilla: ĵ CU), the famous Malayalee author who is so talented that he writes his novels in just one weekend! (My dad, who actually has read the novel, says that the movie was actually a very good representation of the novel.) 

The story takes place in Alappuzha in Central Travancore, very close to where my family comes from. 

WARNING: THOSE WHO PLAN TO SEE THE MOVIE SHOULD NOT READ WHAT IS WRITTEN BELOW! It'll spoil the story. Just know this one fact: Malayalee fishermen believe that if a woman is unfaithful, her husband's boat will overturn while he is fishing.

In this tale that reflects the social injustice that is so easily accepted within disadvantaged and poor communities, Chembankunju (OCE), a Hindu fisherman, strives to buy his own boat and net. (I'm guessing Malayalee fishermen tend to simply use communal boats and nets, possibly provided by the local landowner or some other patron.) 

Meanwhile, the entire fishing community is well aware that his daughter, Karuthamma (JN), is in love with Pareekutty (AG), who is the son of a local Muslim businessman. It is implied that this romance is scandalous and forbidden: the two are not only from different religions (Hindu vs. Muslim) but also from different social backgrounds (fisherwoman vs. apprentice trader). The greedy Chembankunju decides to exploit Pareekutty in order to get what he wants.

Chembankunju asks Pareekutty for money to buy the boat (which includes money to bribe the local landlord as well), promising to give his catch to him for free. Pareekutty pays him, but Chembankunju breaks his promise. As if this were not enough, Chembankunju then gets his reluctant but devoted wife, Chacki (A), to ask for more money to buy the net, thus thoroughly ruining Pareekutty's business and devastating Karuthamma's heart. 

Soon, he also finds a young fisherman named Palani ({) who is new to the community but very good at his trade. Chembankunju decides to make Palani work with him (so he can reap profits) and marry Karuthamma off to him. The hopeless Karuthamma and Pareekutty sadly (but romantically) take leave of each other. At the wedding, though, someone announces that he saw Karuthamma with another man, making Chacki faint. Karuthamma decides that she has to go away to her husband's original home, partly so that she can be far away from the disgrace surrounding her marriage.

Karuthamma serves Palani as a devoted wife, but circumstances hardly improve. Chacki dies out of grief and longing to see her daughter; Chembankunju marries a new wife, but his younger daughter, Panchami (F), does not like her and runs away from home; and finally, Chembankunju goes crazy due to the tragic results of his greed (his wife's death and his loneliness). 

Inevitably, Pareekutty has to go to Karuthamma's house to tell her of Chacki's death. But he comes back a second time while Palani is fishing; the two lovers, unable to restrain their passion for each other, commit adultery on the seashore. All three of the young characters die: Palani (as the legend dictates) dies while trying to pull in a shark. In the end, we see only Karuthamma and Pareekutty's corpses locked in an embrace and the dead shark a few paces away.

This movie also includes several songs that are now extremely famous, especially among the older generation that saw the movie when it was released in 1965. Go to any of these pages to see the songs!

Kadalinakkare Ponore

Maanassamaine, Varuu!

Puththan Valakkaare!

Pennaale, pennaale

You can listen to any of these songs at http://www.musicindiaonline.com/l/20/s/movie_name.3237/

I might later have up a link called "Detailed Notes on Chemmeen," or something like that.

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