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Hmm… I don’t remember us going to Poland.
That’s because we haven’t been there.
Then why have you chosen to write about Poland? Have you been researching it?
Nope, no research. And I am not going to write ABOUT Poland.
Eh? This is confusing.
Wait and watch.
Umm… I mean, wait and read.

*****

Poland. Well, we all have heard of Poland, a country in Central Europe. But how many of you know it is a household name to millions of Mallus aka the Malayalam speaking populace of the tiny state of Kerala, in the south of India? Ahh.. did I hear someone say it is the left-leaning ideology that is the connection? Far from it, my dears. The left, right and centrists, not to mention the non-aligned, all break into a wide smile as one when they hear, ‘Polandine patti oraksharam mindaruthu!’. (Translation: Don’t you dare say a word about Poland)

Sandhesam (Message) is a Malayalam movie that was released in 1991. A political satire, it captured the heart of a whole generation of Mallus, turning it into a cult movie. You can read about the movie, the plot line and other stuff on its Wiki page. As for me, my intention today is to touch upon only one particular scene.

The first son of the family has returned home triumphant. His party, with the centrist ideology has won the elections. He cannot stop crowing about his party’s showing to his father at lunch time. In the meantime the second son whose party, the left, performed dismally, also returns home and slinks to his room not bothering to join them. He knows the humble pie he will have to eat in front of his brother and is dejected at the thought. His mother, at the father’s behest, goes in search of him and convinces him to come for lunch. She even agrees to his stipulations that his brother be warned not to laugh or make fun of him.

Inevitably the brothers end up having words with each other when they come face to face. IMF, price of gold, arrest, loans, bourgeoisie, economy, capitalism all find mention in their exchanges. Then they move on to the international field, naming countries and what happened in each, to buttress their own argument. The capitalist brother gives the example of what happened in Hungary touching a nerve with the leftist brother, who splutters in frustration unable to find a suitable response. Wanting to press home his advantage, the elder brother picks on another country. ‘Ask me what happened in Poland…’ he says. The agitated leftist younger one fumbles not able to find the right response and instead blurts out, ‘Polandine patti oraksharam mindaruthu! Enikkishtamalla.’ Don’t you dare say a word about Poland! I don’t like it.

This one sentence has captured the imagination of not only the generation that grew up on the movie, but all Mallus in Kerala. Almost all, at least all those who know Malayalam and watch Malayalam movies. We use it in everyday conversation in jest and/or mock seriousness when you aren’t really serious about telling someone to back off and not ask questions about… whatever seems apt at that moment. Our common love for this iconic movie, and in particular this piece of conversation, identifies us as Mallus and unites us as one.

Apologies that this post is not of a more universal nature in its topic. This will find resonance only with Mallus, I feel. And I am not even sure I have done justice to it. Anyway, I am sharing below the iconic scene from the movie Sandesham (Message), for your viewing pleasure.

By the way, the argument continues, the one wanting to know why he should not talk about Poland, if Poland is the other’s ancestral property, and the other reiterating he will not tolerate another word against Poland because well, he doesn’t like it. Finally the parents have to intervene to stop them from coming to blows. Incidentally this movie has many more funny (but thought provoking) scenes. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a sub-titled version to link.

© Shail Mohan 2020