In the Movie: Muthukulam Parvati Amma

[Muthukulam Parvathy Amma was a well-known figure of Srinarayana-inspired reformism and a recognized poet and translator whose work and life have not been adequately appreciated even today. She was knows to have had spiritual inclinations and had even sought permission from the Guru to start an order of Srinarayaneeya sanyasinis, something that she could not fulfil. I have still not come across her speeches in print, though she was a prolific and much-admired public speaker. But reading her poetry, one finds extraordinary images and reflections : as a sample, I offer a translation of her poem from 1946, ‘Chalanachithrathil’ — in which she places life on cinema and cinema on life]

In the Movie


The viewers crowd and cram, they

sing and dance afloat on ecstasy’s canoe

They wait, minds joined as one

to feast their eyes on the movie’s tale.


Strange, exotic strains of music

flow from unknown space; they know

it not first, and then all the scene

is immersed in the pitch-black flow

of tenebrous gloom.


Hazy, absolute, solitude, the silence

spreads as sweet imagining, a moment

Then blooms a divine light, and then, all

watch, rapt, in deep delight


And from beyond the viewers’ eyes, from

behind the curtain, first of all

come the melodies, brimming with hope and promise,

dancing, like the cuckoo’s full-throated call. 


She,  beauteous in every limb, a single golden

beam of light, forged of poesy’s sweetness

She tilts her full-moon-like face, emotes

to the delight of any and all.


She lifts up subtly her flower-like body,

stretches the neck, holds aloft her victory’s pride

She comes on to the screen like an Apsara

Like a figurine, and the applause thunders.


And when the damsel’s tender lips –

ah! when they part, how they react,

the young men, and the truly old,

and some yogis, even


They pluck the flower of life, cast it

on her shining feet, bowing, “Devi,

Aim the arrow of the corner of thy divine eye at me –‘

Thus they beg, in ecstatic bliss.


And she? With eyes that fling romance,

heady and bright to entice even the feeble

Shiva! she throws her glance at all alike, and

and then , in a flash, withdraws;


Some leap up to follow the doe-eyed one; some

rasikas let out a thousand sighs, 

 and many are the refined souls

who wipe their fresh, hot tears


And so falls a curtain, and as yet another rises, but

Ah! The viewers are gripped with loathing and hate

They see now a form in the whirlpool of death

 trapped and swirling, on the screen, how sad,


The honeyed sweetness sucked dry by lechers

as they pleased, and now like an empty pot

flung away in sheer disgust,

she lies, bereft of life,


No worshipper now to worship, none

to offer a word of comfort, even, alas!

When the alluring scent fades, who remains,

to kiss? to care? for the fallen flower.


Enough, enough, enough these sights, they

say,  who once laid their lives upon her feet

They leave the scene, the horror mounting

Dreadful blindness drops down on it


In the beginning, the dark, and then light, and then

the terrifying curtain  falls once more.

Behold, the moving picture of human birth, the glorious tale –  is there

anything in the universe one can expect from it, but sorrow?



[Published first in 1946. Reprinted in Muthukulam Parvathy Ammayude Kavithakal, Kottayam: SPCS, 2005, pp. 319-20].









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