‘Oru Cheru Punchiri’: This little gem from MT Vasudevan Nair is a beautiful love story

The film features an elderly couple – retired estate manager Krishna Kuruppu and his wife Ammalukutty – whose endearing love shines throughout.
‘Oru Cheru Punchiri’: This little gem from MT Vasudevan Nair is a beautiful love story
‘Oru Cheru Punchiri’: This little gem from MT Vasudevan Nair is a beautiful love story
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Husband and wife are watching an old Sathyan film (Adimakal) when she turns to him to ask, “There is a lovely song in the film… “Thazhampoo manamulla thanuppulla rathriyil thanichirinnurangunna cheruppakaari…” and then she trails off, trying to remember the rest of the lyrics. He helpfully fills in for her: “Poomuka kilivathil adakkukilla…” and then stops midway to ask, “Gate adachilley malootty?” (Haven’t you locked the gate, Malootty?) It’s these snippets of endearing routineness that shines throughout MT Vasudevan Nair’s little gem called Oru Cheru Punchiri.

Love has not withered in the life of the elderly couple – a retired estate manager, Krishna Kuruppu, and his wife Ammalukutty. They still wake up to the morning song of birds, sometimes to the din of their precious kannimangas falling down in succession.

Krishnettan (Oduvil Unnikrishnan) is a stern disciplinarian with a kind heart. He has created a vegetable garden in his front yard and loves having conversations with the plants – “Oh nintey ela ellam puzhu thinnu alley.” He takes his meals seriously – “Rathrilekku kanjikku uchyakalathey moru kari lesham choodakkikolu. Oru mezhukkupuratti, pinney oru thenga pulum.” An instruction to which his wife takes serious offence – “I am destined to languish in the kitchen.” But then she is the first one to get up in the middle of the night to give him an ottamooli, when he complains of indigestion – “I told you to go easy on that mango pickle.” She gently rubs his chest, calmingly tells him not to worry and looks on with tenderness as he goes back to sleep.

Ammalukutty (Nirmala Sreenivasan) is a quaint mix – of maturity and childishness. She is the picture of motherly elegance in mundum neriyathum and wears traditional jewellery along with it. Theirs is a love that has only matured with each passing year – they still sleep together in a narrow bed, won’t eat without the other for company, and regale each other with stories of their younger days. There is still a silent admiration – when she comes out in a bright kasavu sari, that glint in his eyes is unmistakable.

There is a lovely scene when Krishnettan bumps into an old neighbourhood lady and Ammalukutty is green with jealousy — “Bayankara kambayirunnu alley,” she simmers. Their squabbles are hilarious — when she suggests setting up a scarecrow to ward off the evil eye, he tells her to fish out her old black sari and walk around in that. A visibly annoyed Ammalukutty reminds him that he isn’t a hero himself — “Look at Dileep Kumar and look at you, like a dried-up Rudraksha seed.” Another instance is when he climbs up to the attic to get a jar of salted mangoes and she takes the ladder away. Despite his countless threats, she calmly keeps grating coconut. “If he comes down, he will gobble up the grated coconut and complain of stomach pain at night,” she explains to the little boy there.

The couple can read each other’s minds, aren’t unduly worried about their children and are content in their little world. They are a very self-sufficient couple, so much so that even the occasional visits to their children’s homes aren’t something they look forward to. During the rare visit, Krishnettan finds his routine going haywire and is eager to be back in the company of his plants.

When Ammalukutty has a fainting spell, he is devastated — suddenly the stern husband is all tender, cooking kanji and looking after her with care. They do have a small social circle — so when an old friend comes visiting, Krishnettan warmly ushers him in, with a big shout-out to Ammalukutty — “De, ara vannirikkaney ennu nokku.” And when she comes, he reminds her about the dinner menu — “Rathrileykkulla njan vistharichittu alochichu parayam.”

When his old buddy mentions their common friend who got remarried, Krishnettan surprisingly isn’t judgemental — “Good, we need a companion at this age.” There is an interesting scene where the two friends reminisce about their younger days over drinks, when abruptly Krishnettan throws away the water in the steel tumbler and does an impromptu kottu on it. Ammalukutty who is laying dinner is seen smiling to herself. As he leaves, the friend gives a backward glance at his friend and wife —with longing and perhaps envy too.

The backdrop is vintage MT — the naatinpuram where every household owns a cow (“Innu ara nazhi paaley thannunllu”), when homes had red-oxide flooring, compact rooms and sprawling verakaduppu kitchens, when postmen would walk over for a chat about the weather, when neighbours were family, and little boys in valli nikkar and baniyans would run errands for you. Not to forget that omnipresent Valluvanadan slang.

Krishnettan and Ammalukutty have an elaborate meal. He is sated and takes a nap. Five minutes later as if she realises his stillness, Ammalukutty peers at him. It’s a heart-wrenching moment — “I always prayed that he would die before me. Nobody can look after him like me,” she says.

Oru Cheru Punchiri is a film that makes you believe in love and marriage. A film that you wish will go on forever. A film that really tells you what it means to be in love — to cherish and grow old with your life partner. It’s a kind of utopia that you wish happened in every one of our lives. Old age never looked so fascinating before.

This article was originally published on Fullpicture.in. The News Minute has syndicated the content. You can read the original article here.

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