cinema: malayalam

Dravidian Gothic

You stumble into your first meeting with a Tamil native. She nods curtly at you. Sweat trickles down your forehead. Four thousand years of history lie between you. Her nails have been immaculately pointed sharp. There is blood on them. You must not fail. You can not fail. They later find your body behind the dumpster.

The six nasals stare back at you, their eyes full of malice. Was it nya or nga? You do not remember. You continue to practice, you feel them stare back at you. Something shifts in the atmosphere.

You open your textbook, eager to work on translation. You skip the script and move towards the transliteration. The words are all made of Zh. You blink. It is now L. The words mock your ignorance.

Your professor starts talking about your Malayali mid-term project. You tell him that this is a Telugu class. There is no Telugu class. There has never been. The words blend into each other and you are convinced that you will never be able to learn Telugu.

Your words change script mid-sentence. From Tamil to Kannada and Malto. The scripts blend into each other and now you do not know where one begins and where the other ends. You look down. You have been drawing circles for the last hour.

You decide to go to Southern india for an exchange trip. You come to your hotel. You enter a vacant hotel, the streets are empty. The sun does not rise here. It has never risen. The eight Tamil cases prowel the streets. No one has left their homes in a century.

You arrive at Harrapa to learn about the ancient proto-Dravidian language. A sign hangs there. It warns you not to go forward, for many have ventured here and never left. You check your guidebook for information, it is blank. You look back at the sign. It too is blank. In the distance you hear elephants.

Your step-father comments on the harshness of your target language. He does not wake the next morning. You have begun to notice a pattern of deaths.

കത്തി - Kathi simply put is a knife, but it has other meanings too. It can refer to a chatterbox, someone who talks you to death/kills you with their incessant chatter. It can mean boasting as well.

In the scene from Naadodikaatu, Thilakan’s character Ananthan Nambiar says “എന്തൊക്കെ ബഹളമാർന്നു, മലപ്പുറം കത്തി, മെഷീൻ ഗൺ, ബോംബ്, ഓലക്കേടെ മൂട് - Enthokke bhahalamarnnu, malappuram kathi, machine gun, bomb, olakkede moodu…” This is in reference to Pavanayi’s (played brilliantly by Captain Raju) failure and death. Thilakan’s character had hired Pavanayi as a contract killer to get rid of Dasan and Vijayan (played by Lalettan and Sreenivasan) who he thinks are CIDs. Pavanayi boasts a lot. In fact, when he arrives, he showcases his suitcase full of weaponry including the famed മലപ്പുറം കത്തി - Malapuram Kathi. Despite his ridiculous boasting, he is always thwarted by the unknowning Dasan and Vijayan.

മലപ്പുറം കത്തി - Malapuram Kathi is a unique knife extensively used in the Malapuram district especially for agriculture. Its handle is made of deer horn and it is quite expensive. The elderly often use it to cut betal leaves and crush pan nuts.

It has long been equated with bravery.
Some people like to boast that they’ve killed with the മലപ്പുറം കത്തി - Malapuram Kathi. Due to this, Pavanayi’s excessive bragging and Thilakan’s dialogue, മലപ്പുറം കത്തി - Malapuram Kathi has gradually been associated with bluffing and boasting.

The dialogue in entirety is said when plans go awry. For example, when you and your friends decide to go somewhere, plan extensively, but in the last minute your boss makes Saturday a working day.

Other usage:

We might hear people describe famous fighters or rowdies: “അവൻ വെറും കത്തി അല്ല, മലപ്പുറം കത്തിയാണ് - Avan verum kathi alla malapuram kathiyaannu” He’s not a simple knife, he’s a Malapuram knife. This is also said sarcastically.

ശോ! എന്തൊരു കത്തിയാ! - Sho! Enthoru kathiya!

Something you might whisper to your friend when you’re forced to listen to someone talk/boast on and on.

കത്തി വെച്ച് കൊല്ലും - kathi vechu kollum This means they’ll kill you with their conversation.


Ps. What rhymes with Pavanayi?