Unseen characters have been used since the beginning of theatre with the ancient Greek tragedians, such as Laius in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Jason’s bride in Euripides’ Medea. Rosaline in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is another classical example of an unseen character.
In the Malayalam movie Paka which was showcased in the recently concluded Toronto Film Festival, there is a Granny whose disgruntled mutterings are pivotal to the movie all through. Only her toes are shown, with her lying on her bed. Her two grandsons live with her until one of her sons, uncle of the two grandsons, returns from jail.
In the Thamizh movie ‘Ethir Neechal,’ directed by K Balachander, the Coughing Grandfather only his cough is heard all through the movie. The Grandfather is never shown. The other movie I watched where a body part of a main character is shown is in Inspector Gadget, a 1983 animated film where the villain Dr Claw’s right hand is shown all through the film.
Like the Dr Claw, the Granny of Paka is arrogant, malicious, ruthless, sinister, short-tempered and sadistic. The Granny is the one injecting venom of revenge into her grandsons. She does not want to change and does not even want any light or fresh air entering her room. She chastises her grandson who tries to open the window of her room. After her death, the grandson opens the very same window to let in light and fresh air into the room.
The other movie I remember where a main character’s legs were shown was in Charlie’s Angels, where the villain and the master mind’s legs are shown at the very end. In Paka, the Granny’s toes are only shown all through.
I wanted to meet Nithin Lukose, the director and script writer of the movie after the premier show, but Nithin couldn’t make it to Toronto due to the pandemic protocols.
Mariakutty, aged 83 years. who enacted the role of the Granny mesmerised the viewers with her voice alone. She happens to the Grandmother of the Director Nithin. The story is loosely based on the stories the Granny narrated to a young Nithin. In fact Mariakutty relived her life in the movie, through her voice.