Star-crossed romance charms movie audiences in Kerala

November 3, 2015

An Indian film about a pair of real-life star-crossed lovers has hit a raw nerve amid concerns over rising religious intolerance in the country.

Set in the 1960s and 70s, “Ennu Ninte Moideen” (Yours Truly, Moideen) is a Malayalam-language film based on a tragic love story now part of folklore in northern Kerala.

Moideen, a Muslim, fell in love with Kanchanamala, the daughter of an aristocratic Hindu landlord in Mukkam village. Their families opposed the match because of their religions. Kanchanamala was held captive in her house for two decades, and Moideen’s father stabbed him in a fit of anger. Although he survived, the lovers were kept apart for several years.

In 1982, Moideen died trying to save the passengers of a boat that capsized in a nearby river. Kanchanamala attempted suicide, but survived and considers herself Moideen’s “unmarried widow”. Today in her 70s, she takes care of the B P Moideen Seva Mandir, a charity organization in Mukkam.

“It was religion that kept us apart and the misplaced belief that girls have to uphold the dignity of their families,” Kanchanamala said in a recent interview with the Indian Express daily. “Had I married Moideen, it would have been hard for my five sisters to find a match.”

The box-office success of “Ennu Ninte Moideen”, which opened in cinemas on Sept. 19, has helped take Moideen and Kanchanamala’s story to a wider audience among the estimated 38 million native speakers of Malayalam. Die-hard fans make the trip to Mukkam in Kozhikode district to meet the real-life Kanchanamala.

R S Vimal, the film’s director, said he sought to uphold the secular values cherished by society in Kerala, a progressive state with a high rate of literacy.

“The main focus is on the plight of these two individuals, irrespective of their religious affiliations,” he said.

“Ennu Ninte Moideen” has won critical and popular acclaim in recent months and its message of religious tolerance and harmony is expected to charm newer audiences with a Tamil-language remake slated to be filmed in 2016.

Lakshmi Ranjit, an academic and writer, said that Moideen and Kanchanamala’s romance was set in a time when “liberal thoughts still had a space in Kerala.”

“Many villagers and even some members of their families supported the lovers,” said Ranjit. “In the context of the present India, this film has some relevance but the issue remains on the margins of the narrative structure.”

(Editing by Tony Tharakan and Robert MacMillan; Follow Unnikrishnan on Twitter @BSUnnikrishnan,  Tony @TonyTharakan and Robert @bobbymacReports. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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