Oh nammalithokke ethra kandatha, ithokke enthu, it is good...ennalum pora...! — There won’t be a single Malayali who hasn’t used these sentences at least once in their lifetime.
Why and how did contempt become the pre-eminent character of the average Malayali? While not many are capable of giving the answers, most agree that it is a quintessential part of the Malayali’s mental make-up.
A few months ago, singers Vidhyashankar, Sreenath and their friend Nikhil Raj were on their way to a music performance and the trio was animatedly brainstorming for an idea to do a unique music video. While Sreenath suggested some interesting idea, the others rejected it with a tinge of contempt. The same happened with Vidyashanker and Nikhil and the only thing that changed were the names of the people who rejected the concept.
In a few moments, they realised that they are actually nullifying each other’s idea without a second thought. One among them asked, “Why are we being so sarcastic about each other?” The query clicked and they made a music video Pucham, Malayaliyude Swantham Bhavam.
The guys just did not do it as they felt. But they spoke to all and sundry about it and all the Malayalis to whom they spoke to unanimously said, “Yes! Contempt is God’s Own Country’s classic style!”
“I personally feel that we have lost our ability to accept anything new or even appreciate anything good. The best examples are the films that are being trashed and victimised naming them as ‘new-generation’. This happens only in Kerala. If you go to Tamil Nadu, we see people there going and watching movies acted and made by newcomers and appreciating it if these are any good. Here, we turn out to be critics without even watching it. The same thing is happening in all other fields too. That’s why development or changes are very slow here,” says Vidhyashanker.
Recently, Lijo Jose Pellissery, director of Double Barrel, had said in a radio interview that Malayalis view everything around them with scepticism and does not accept any change or excellence. “The psyche behind we Malayalis being so contemptuous is because we are a highly intellectual crowd who are sensitive to things around them. Only those who are sensitive will be able to view things with sarcasm. This is a quality which has both pros and cons. However, our attitude to belittle other people’s opinions and ideas is not a good one,” he feels.
Aren’t Malayalis, a community who were looked upon by others as industrious and revolutionary in breaking many social stigmas like untouchability and social inequality? Where did their receptiveness to change vanish?
“Till the late 80s, our society was highly enlightened and progressive. Our knowledge on everything around was immense. Reading, writing and productive discussions were active. Even criticisms used to be highly creative. That is the reason why ideologies like communism succeeded here and we became pioneers in bringing about socio-cultural and political revolutions. Hence, we never used to look at things that were beyond an intellectual level. We cannot call it as contempt though it is something close to it,” says researcher and acting coach Devendranath Shankaranarayanan.
He points out by the mid 90s, the receptiveness Malayalis used to boast of got diminished to a very low level due to changing culture, especially the mass media culture. “We have become a ‘headline society’, which does not have any in-depth knowledge of anything happening around us. But we still live in that intellectual illusion of the 80s. We lack intensity not only in political awareness but also in all other fields,” he says.
“It is very tough for us to accept the goodness or quality in an individual — be it a colleague or a partner. Only a very few are a far cry from this. But mostly everyone loves to criticise. Women have contempt for men and vice versa. I guess we all should create an ability to appreciate each other and grow together. This has to start from the family,” says poet-teacher Anitha Sreejith. “Reading, researching and discussions on serious subjects too are missing. But we still hold that critical mind with depthless knowledge. It is time to do some self-criticism,” Devendranath concludes....