Poovarasam Peepee Review
Poovarasam Peepee smells of summer. Of Frank and Joe Hardy. Of brewing adventure. Of sticky sweet Mango Bytes. Games under the sun. Swimming. There’s a lot of Anita Desai. There’s some Ruskin Bond (sans Mussoorie). Heck, there’s even a Chet Morton. But this is no children’s movie. There’s no friendly cop who ruffles your hair, only corrupt policemen. And rapists. Also, murderers. One moment, the boys are gaily splashing about in a stream; and the next, they are witness to a brutal gang-rape of a classmate’s mother. There’s no sugar-coating. Director Halitha Shameem makes sure of that. She gives us cold, hard facts. Welcome to the Indian summer, she says. It’s time to grow up.
[quote align=’right’]There’s a surge of thrill at their small victories, a palpable sense of fear when in danger; and laughter at the right intervals[/quote]Poovarasam Peepee is also a holiday adventure. But there is nothing Enid Blyton-esque about it, save for the occasional thrill of adventure and perhaps a few summer pastimes. There’s nothing picture-perfect here. There’s no idyllic British countryside. There are no lovingly packed ham sandwiches; or ice-cold lemonade and scones; only a local delicacy foraged off a street vendor; and eaten with coconut shells. The mother doesn’t have a fond glint in her eye. Here, she is sweeping; sari tucked in at the waist, and when she sees her son perched atop a tree with a friend, she gestures threateningly at them with her todappam. Come down, she says. And help me scare the crows. She’s drying vadams on the terrace.
[quote align=’left’]Welcome to the Indian summer, Shameem says. Now it’s time to grow up.[/quote]The movie narrates the tale of three lads, each with his own unique set of endearing quirks. They hail from different backgrounds. One loves science, is a geek, and is fondly referred to as ‘Antenna’; while another fails his examinations but has creative potential. The other, dreams of becoming a fire-fighter. They all study in class ‘6C’ (hilarious, this). A few days into their carefree summer, they are suddenly thrust into adulthood. Frolicking in in the river, they are caught off-guard when they bear sole witness to a gruesome crime. And, they take it upon themselves to bring justice; in an ironical jumble of innocence, manhood, science experiments and kite-running. There are also some faint stirrings of love (unnecessary); there are heartwarming little nuggets of friendship, and betrayal, jealousy and heroism.
Here, Shameem also weaves in a subtle message. Her villains are big, burly men. Scruffy, with handlebar moustaches, dirty lungis and scarred features, they indulge in alcohol and drugs, have mighty political connections and run shady businesses. But at the helm of their operations, is a seemingly law-abiding and chaste Chemistry teacher. He canes students for misdemeanor at school, wears squeaky clean shoes, and has a refined, polished accent. Perpetrators of crime (against women), Shameem says, cannot be pigeon-holed.
Poovarasam Peepee is also about the physical details. Of growing up. It is more Anne Frank. A personal diary which documents adolescence with unnerving honesty. When Antenna gathers up his soiled bedclothes one day; and goes up to the river to launder, mumbling an incoherent response to his mother’s query along the way, he walks past a huge poster of a manjal neerattu vizha. He fleetingly glances at the poster, hugs his laundry a little closer to his chest, and quickens his pace – a funny, but poignant reminder of how things function in a society riddled with hypocrisy and prejudice.
[quote align=’left’]Poovarasam Peepee is also a holiday adventure. But there is nothing Enid Blyton-esque about it, save for the occasional thrill of adventure and perhaps a few summer pastimes[/quote]But where Shameem scores as a storyteller, is during those moments of adventure; when the underlying, disturbing reason is all but forgotten. There’s a surge of thrill at their small victories, a palpable sense of fear when in danger; and laughter at the right intervals. There are no brash acts of heroism (save for a few moments of fantasy), nothing beyond their strengths, or means. They are on a mission; they seek justice, and they do it with their voices – a clever trick from the director with a degree in Electronic Media. She stays on familiar terrain; as do her boys and succeeds in driving home the message. Granted, there are way too many ‘lessons’ that the director tries to squeeze in (an animation sequence that satires on communal violence), but they can be forgiven. She means well after all.
Poovarasam Peepee’s best moment comes towards the very end; as a fitting tribute to their adventure: the last scene. The boys are back in school, the teacher asks of their summer holidays. And when a classmate starts narrating, in a regular, well-rehearsed beat about his exotic vacation in Munnar, Antenna and friends share a furtive smile; heads bent over their books – to the echo of a distant peepee.
They are no longer boys; but they are not men either. They are simply the local whistle-blowers. The Poovarasam Peepee.
[accordion title=’Shoutout’]Child-artistes Gaurav Kalai, Pravin Kishore and Vasanth. Not many adult actors can pull a convincing expression of grief. Or shock. Or joy.[/accordion]
[accordion title=’Shout-down’]To the dialogues. Why rest some (bizarrely) mature lines on young shoulders?[/accordion]