M 4 Propagation

RATHRIMAZHA (Rain-at-Night)


Like some young madwoman 

Weeping, laughing, whimpering. 

For nothing 

Muttering without a stop,

And sitting huddled up 

Tossing her long hair.


Pensive daughter of the dusky dark 

Gliding slowly like a long wail

Into this hospital,

Extending her cold fingers

Through the window 

And touching me.


When groans and shudders

And sharp voices 

And the sudden anguished cry of a mother

Shake me, and I put my hand to my ears

And sob, tossing on my sickbed

You, like a dear one

Coming through the gloom with comforting words. 

Somebody said,

The diseased part can be cut and removed

But what can be done with the poor heart

More deeply diseased?


Witness to my love,

Who lulled me to sleep 

Giving more joy than the moonlight did; 

Which in the auspicious nights  

Made me laugh

Made me thrill with joy .

Let me tell you,


I know your music, kind and sad.

Your pity and your suppressed rage,

Your coming in the night, 

Your sobbing and weeping when all alone;

And when it is dawn

Your wiping your face and forcing a smile, 

Your hurry and your putting on an act:

How do I know all this? My friend, I, too, am like you

Like you, rain at night.

Translated by H. Hridayakumari.

Daughter of eminent Malayalam poet Bodheswaran and Sanskrit scholar Karthiyayini Amma, Sugathakumari is a prominent voice in the contemporary Malayalam literature. The people of Kerala know her both as a poet and a fighter who involves in the struggles to save the environment and nature of Kerala. Her poems such as “Rathrimazha” (Rain-at-night) and “Krisha neeyenne ariyilla”(Krishna, you know me not) are very popular.

Sugathakumari belongs to the Romantic tradition of poetry which began with Kumaran Asan and flourished with Changambuzha Krisha Pillai. In the 1960s, the writers including ONV Kurup, Sugathakumari, MV Vishu Narayanan Namboothiri etc wrote poems which have romantic tendencies. Though Sugathakumari’s poems can be seen as a continuation of the Romantic Poetry, she has equally raised social issues, and mythical themes in her poetry. Major poems include Rathrimazha, Ambalamani, and Manalezhuth.

The poem Rathrimazha (from the collection Rathrimazha) has been translated to English by her own sister and literary critic H. Hridayakumari as “Rain at Night”. The poem is written in six sections, but does not have a regular stanzaic form.

The speaker in the poem identifies herself with the rain at night. The shifting moods of the persona parallel with that of the rain at night. We can see different emotional states of the woman in the poem, youth, love, melancholy, mental agony, disease, loneliness and so on. The rain has been the companion of the woman in all these different emotional stages.

The poem can be read in a feminist perspective as well. The speaker, obviously a woman, talks about her companion, the rain in the poem. (Sugathakumari, in a number of interviews, had talked about the situation of writing the poem. While sitting in a room, suddenly it rained and the author got sudden surge of emotion and started writing it.) Throughout the poem, the feelings of melancholy and loneliness predominate. Rain has been portrayed as the “…pensive daughter of the dusky night.”

The poet asks,

A diseased part can be cut and removed

But what can be done to the poor heart

Deeply diseased?

Rathrimazha, Rain at Night

The “deeply diseased” poor heart maybe the individual who had to suffer because of the corrupted societal interventions.

Loneliness is a predominent theme in the poem.

When I toss and turn

On my sweltering bed of sickness

In the sleepless hours of the night

And forgetting even to weep

Alone, slowly freeze into a stone.

Rathrimazha, Rain at Night

The image of the woman who is frozen into a stone, even forgetting to weep, and experiencing loneliness is a clear statement on the pathetic state of woman in a patriarchal society. She is devoid of her identity and made to suffer by a social system which cannot understand her.

And when it is dawn

Your wiping your face and facing a smile

Your hurry and your putting on an act

Rathrimazha, Rain at Night

The above lines may remind us of the routine life of a woman who has to put an act on the face while suppressing her tears as she does not have any other choice.

The poet discusses the plight of the woman by comparing it with the rain which comes at night. By attributing her loneliness and alienation to a natural phenomenon, she is trying to find solace, at last here she has a companion to share her feelings.

Malayalam’s Ghazal - Jeet Thayil

Listen! Someone’s saying a prayer in Malayalam. He says there’s no word for ‘despair’ in Malayalam.

Sometimes at daybreak you sing a Gujarati garba. At night you open your hair in Malayalam.

To understand symmetry, understand Kerala.The longest palindrome is there, in Malayalam.

When you’ve been too long in the rooms of English,Open your windows to the fresh air of Malayalam.

Visitors are welcome in The School of Lost Tongues. Someone’s endowed a high chair in Malayalam.

I greet you my ancestors, O scholars and linguists. My father who recites Baudelaire in Malayalam.

Jeet, such drama with the scraps you know. Write a couplet, if you dare, in Malayalam.

Short Notes for  50 years of Malayalam Cinema

The state of Kerala in India has a distinct film tradition that is influenced by its socio-political history. The state was formed in 1956 by merging three territories on the basis of a common language, and it has a history of social-reform movements, nationalism, and left ideology. These issues have contributed to a film tradition that is quite different from other Indian cinemas. Kerala's audiences are cine-literate, and there are many active film societies even in the remotest areas. The patriarchal ideology is prevalent in the early landmark films of Malayalam cinema, such as "Neelakkuyil" and "Chemmeen," which focused on local culture, caste inequality, progress, and construction of a modern secular subject. Despite the patriarchal elements, these films were instrumental in constructing a dominant pattern of film narrative in Kerala. The state's unique socio-political context continues to shape its film industry, which includes arthouse directors and scores of film societies. 


The plot revolves around rustic life in a small village. Neeli (Miss Kumari), a Dalit peasant girl, falls in love with Sreedharan Nair (Sathyan), a school teacher. Neeli becomes pregnant. Sreedharan Nair refuses to marry Neeli as he fears being ostracized by a conservative society. Neeli becomes an outcaste and dies in child birth. Sankaran Nair (P.Bhaskaran), the village postman, adopts the child ignoring the protests of society. Sreedharan Nair marries Nalini (Prema), a member of an aristocratic family. Neeli’s son Mohan (Master Vipin) is brought up by the postman. The film ends with Sreedharan Nair and Nalini accepting the boy as their own child.[4]

National Film Awards

1954 - All India Certificate of Merit for Best Feature Film[6]

1954 - President's Silver Medal for Best Feature Film in Malayalam


There are nine songs, scored by K. Raghavan and penned by P. Bhaskaran, The musical genres utilised included Mappilappattu (Islamic music), Koyithupattu (a form of harvest singing), traditional prayers, romantic melodies, all of which emanated from the folk traditions of Kerala. 

The popular songs from the film are "Ellarum Chollanu Ellarum Chollanu", "Kayalarikaathu Vala Erinjappol", "Maanennum Vilikkilla" (Mehboob).

S. Sithara’s extraordinary short story “Fire”

S. Sithara’s extraordinary short story “Fire” depicts the story of a girl gang raped by three men and the way she protests against this brutal and heinous act.

The story originally written in Malayalam has been translated into English by R.K. Jayasree. It has been adapted into a short film as well. Priya, the protagonist of “Fire” does not wish to be treated with sympathy and remain like a victim.

Her small triumphs in the form of questioning masculinity give her great satisfaction.

In an interview given to Samyukta journal, Sithara shared her views on creating a character like Priya:

“Violence against women is on the increase now. Once when I was writhing with moral indignation at the situation, the image of a girl came to my mind — a girl who in her special way, takes vengeance upon her violators. That’s how ‘Fire’ broke out. But after writing the story, I felt the character was not even half powerful as I intended her to be”

“Fire” has generated a lot of discussions and debates in academic circles for the unorthodox rendition of an incident like rape. The aura of gang rape, physical abuse, verbal abuse, shame, humiliation, revenge, masculinity in question, love, and triumph comes into the ambit of the short story.

Spoliers for Agni

Priya who is gang raped by Sanjeev, Ravi, and the stripling feels she is “the most humiliated woman on earth”. Someone has even taken the claim of her menstrual blood, which hitherto had solely been her own. Though she felt she has become the most dispossessed woman, she goes to the office as usual.

She happens to meet the ones who raped her the other day. They warn her not to disclose anything to anyone and that they won’t mind killing her and her people.

The volley of abusive words was followed by a query by Sanjeev, the first one to rape her; how did it feel yesterday? His smiling face darkened into a scowl with her unexpected reply; “You were simply not up to the mark. You don’t pack enough punch. I don’t think you will ever be able to satisfy a woman.’

Then she turned towards Ravi. ‘But I liked you very much. You are a real man.’ Touching his cheek lightly once and looking from one face to the other, both of which were full of suspicion and consternation, she climbed the steps and walked away.” This befitting reply in fact questions and ridicules the masculinity of Sanjeev.

Priya subverts all the expected reactions of a rape victim

Contrary to the expectations of the conservative society and the inquisitive readers, Priya does not think of committing suicide. There’s not even a stain of depression making her confined to the corner of the house. The typical woman, in this situation, should think about suicide. But Priya subverts all the conventional practices.

The next week Priya goes every day to Sanjeev’s booth to make phone calls. She calls up all her friends whose numbers she knows and talks to them, watching, in a spirit of revenge, the feeling of inferiority creeping over his face every time he saw her.

Each time she reminds herself that there is nothing that gives greater satisfaction than small triumphs. Priya tries to find happiness in small and simple ways by humiliating Sanjeev and Ravi.

Priya’s revenge took the form of love and she told Ravi that she liked him. Ravi was the stranger with lust in his eyes and that started haunting her thoughts.

She was her first man in every sense. It was only later that she realized it was him. When Ravi dominated Priya that day, it was a sense of shame that she felt at first.

But she began to like him and felt that the others’ acts of domination only provided a yardstick to measure him. Her blood and tears would crave for him. He was the prison cell she could not afford to leave. Ravi turns out to be in a prison cell and his love becomes revenge for Priya.

Ravi has dominated her or locked her up in a prison cell of physical humiliation. Ravi captivated Priya in the prison cell and she evoked a feeling of love in him. Priya saw the tears in his eyes and Ravi sat watching her smile.

Her love is capable of hurting him. Priya has emerged triumphant in showing vengeance in her simple satisfactory ways.

A story of revenge formed by small triumphs

‘Fire’ is a tale of revenge and small triumphs. A woman is always burning with desire. Just like the flames of fire, she is also burning and brimming in her life. She does not wish to surrender her highly spirited self to those who had taken the claim even on her menstrual blood.

Priya stands as an epitome of a spirited girl who wishes to fight against all odds with her small triumphs and revenge.

When Sithara’s “Agni” written in Malayalam becomes “Fire” in English, a lot of changes do happen. Language being the spokesperson of a particular locale is capable of rendering the flavor and favor of local.