Ee.Ma.Yau is a Masterpiece Brave Enough to Find Humour in Death
‘Ee.Ma.Yau’ takes an irreverent look at death and brings out the complexities of human emotion in the process.
Ee. Ma. Yau comes from the kitty of Lijo Jose Pellissery at a time when his last venture, Angamaly Diaries, is rapidly hurtling towards cult status.
Pellissery’s new film is dark, in more ways than one – it deals with death, and much of the film has been either shot at night, or under gloomy skies. Yet it does not weigh you down, for real human emotions illuminate it throughout, as do the shots of the rain-drenched sea.
Vavachan is returning home after a while, as alcoholic patriarchs are wont to do in rural Kerala. He carries a bag that contains a duck that is resigned to its fate, and a bottle of vatt (home-made spirit).
The duck is going to die and so is Vavachan – and the vatt may have a part to play in it, if you read between the lines.
But before Vavachan dies, his son Eeshi promises him a funeral fit for a king. “I will give you a first-class band performance, an A-class coffin, and a bishop at the funeral,” he says.
But things do not go according to plan.
The funeral unravels, along with Eeshi’s sanity.
The wind is a character, as is the angry sea. The house is a living, breathing organism – each of its occupants playing their part, including the dead body. The wife, wailing, grieving and sometimes putting on a performance; the daughter-in-law, who borrows a necklace so that people won’t gossip; the gossip-monger, who sees foul play where none exists; the neighbourhood Samaritan; the bad priest; the good policeman.
The director is brave enough to mix laughter with tragedy. What happens to Eeshi’s "A-class coffin" makes the audience laugh in the beginning, before it fades to contemplation and finally sorrow at the turn of events.
Grief is not the only thing that happens in a house where a death has occurred. Grief and reality can coexist. The pain of losing one’s husband does not stop the matriarch from cribbing about her daughter-in-law and the dowry that she failed to bring with her. Losing her father does not stop the daughter from demanding attention from her lover. Neither her distressed husband, nor her dead father-in-law can seem to keep the daughter-in-law from being concerned about her physical appearance at the funeral.
Staying true to form, Ee.Ma.Yau does not divulge the true meaning of its title. Ee.Ma.Yau is short for Eesho, Mariam and Ouseph (or Jesus, Mary and Joseph), which could also imply a prayer said for the dead and the dying.
Pellissery conveys the underlying truth of life in the same subtle fashion as everything else in the film – death is the biggest equaliser. The climax reveals a sad truth to the audience: that whatever course your life takes, whatever luxuries or shortcomings you have lived with, whether you are a human being or an animal – the same end awaits each one of us.
Vavachan, who is denied a religious farewell, meets the same fate as the one who was buried by the priest. Even a street dog and the above-mentioned duck are equal in the eyes of death.
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