[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].