In January 1998, a collection of poetry from Payyannur was released. A book on ‘Visuddha Smita’ containing nine poems on Smita and her study. It was noticed because of the politics and the point of view presented. Priced at Rs 16, the book will turn 25 next year, with only a thousand copies being released. When the 23rd of September comes around every year and reminds us of Silk Smitha again, this book also gets a share of that.
Also read: For Saint Smitha, U. A poem written by Rajiv
Actress Silk Smitha, who set the direction of the male gaze in South Indian cinema in the 90s, ended her life on 23 September 1996. Into the void created by the uncertainty of film and personal life, the depression created by the difficulties and the alcohol consumed that day, they wove the possibility of a rope.
Two years after that unexpected death, a collection of Payyannur’s poems was released in January 1998. A book on ‘Visuddha Smita’ containing nine poems on Smita and her study. A collection of nine diverse poems, ranging from meditations on an actress who unexpectedly stepped out from the veil of male ambitions, to concerns about female bodies that were supposed to be sacrificed at the cross of their appearance. It was noticed because of the politics and the point of view presented. Priced at Rs 16, the book will turn 25 next year, with only a thousand copies being released. When the 23rd of September comes around every year and reminds us of Silk Smitha again, this book also gets a share of that.
‘Oh sex bomb!’
Although she was a well-known film actress in all the states of South India, Silk Smitha’s life was outside the social status of a ‘film star’. The public and the majority of the audience saw him not as an actor but only as a body. Their expertise was in the ‘drugs’ category, which the film industry has long used as raw material for marketing potential. The film demanded of them not acting skills, but physical performance. Although they shared different politics and ideologies, the same possibilities were sought by audiences who yearned for ‘attractive female bodies’ from them as the theater darkened. When the film and the audience give exactly what they ask for, the same public and the audience come out of the darkness of the theater and look at them in wonder saying ‘Aye sex’.
While Silk Smitha was dying with her acting in such films and the male audience was thirsting for such films, that break- Smitha’s suicide!
However, even after her death, Smitha’s films were packed in theatres. Even in the absence of Smitha, that body has repeatedly quenched the thirst of the audience on the silver screen. Even then, the society was very careful not to change the social opinion about the actress. Also, care was taken to keep them in the food court as bait for the male gaze.
All this was said to give a general idea of how the Kerala society looked at the film actress Silk Smitha after her death in September 1996. Just a body that no one is particularly interested in, whether alive or dead. Only Smitha and the actresses treated the film in a similar way before and after that. Things haven’t changed much since then.
A book about silk too?
At a time when social awareness of Silk Smitha is strong, the book ‘Vishaddha Smithika’ comes out from Payyannur, two years and four months after Smitha’s death, and when such a book comes out, people local says, ‘Oh, a book about silk? ‘ and he asked out loud.
“We had an idea about the response to this book. After the release of the book, those who said, “Silk was enough after the release of the book about Mother Teresa…” confirmed that opinion.. Speaking to Asianet News Online, Sivakumar Kangol said, the editor of the book, this with a smile.
This book was published by a small group in Payyannur who lived by breathing new literature, politics and discourses. Most of them were students from Payyannur College. The rest do various other jobs. The unemployed. The poem ‘Visuddha Smitaik’, written by U Rajeev, who was studying BA Malayalam at the time, came to the enthusiasm of that group which met regularly in the evening at a messenger shop in the town. Silk Smitha had not been dead for long. That death was not read in many ways, and that’s when Rajeev’s poem came.
“That poem did a number. After that I wrote an antipoem to him. It was then that Vijay Thambi’s poem ‘Smita is the name of a river’ appeared in Kalakaumudi. Right behind Dr. Prasad’s poem Silk India also came. With that, a discussion arose between us about why Smitha should be seen in a different way. That’s how I think of a book about Smita,” says Shivakumar Kangol.
Ways to order
Until then only four poems on Smitha had come to attention. If you want to be a book, you need poems again. It was agreed that the members of the group themselves could write poems about Smitha. After having five more poems, the total became nine poems. KC Muralidharan of the group wrote a study paper called ‘Politics of Purity’. Sivakumar Kangol, the editor, also wrote a note explaining why the book is like this. Manoj P in the group created the perfect image for the cover using electric wire. And so came the content of the book.
But that wasn’t enough. It’s not an easy time to get a book off the ground. And a group like this with no income. To publish a book, you must first raise money. And low cost printing. There were no presses or other technical devices that made printing easy back then.
I worked in a courier shop. There is no money to publish the book. That’s how we did the Atakai exercise we all do when we get stuck. Ask his wife. She removed the two gold bracelets from her hand despite her suffering. He was pawning and making money. Printed at the Express Press at Thaliparam. Released in Payyannur.
Feedback and criticism
The price of the book was Rs. 40 pages. VG Thampi, Madhu Alappatamp, AC Srihari, U. Rajeev, Sivakumar Kangol, Dr Prasad, P. Poems written by Manoj, Girish Kumar K and Haridasan KC. All these poems contradicted the general perception of Silk Smitha. Poems that identify Smitha in a different perspective. In some, the flakes of the male gaze were revealed, but there was a similarity in the politics they all shared. That is why, in the note ‘Why Smitha’, the editor wrote: “Certainly there will be differences of opinion about the poems in this volume, about their quality and the vulgarity of the language they relate to. But we think this book is relevant because of its politics. With this validation of relevance, we disregard all criticism that may come against this book.”
Their understanding was correct. There was a lot of criticism against him. More people frowned. However, this situation gradually changed. Readers themselves began to say that Smitha was a possibility of another idea. “We went to IFKK in Kochi to sell the book. At first there was more criticism. Later people came to try and buy the book. There were good comments. Meanwhile, Kalpetta Narayanan Mash, Zakaria and Payyannoor Satish Babu all wrote about the book. The book has had different readings. With that, I started getting recognition.”
Attitudes change, and so does public awareness!
However, it didn’t take long to sell out a thousand copies. The book moved into people’s collections. Sivakumar Kangol, who published the book, had to post an undamaged copy on Facebook. There were no new editions of this book priced at Rs 16. The natural forgetfulness of society also affected this book.
But with a thousand copies the seeds of the change this book made had already begun to work. It created a new sense of direction as to how actresses including Smitha should be seen. With the change in times, Smita got the respect she didn’t get while she was alive. Audiences also began to openly say that their fantasy movie worlds also included drugged actresses. Thus, Smita was remembered on every birth and death anniversary. And also this book about Smitha. Last year, Smitha’s absence turned a quarter of a century old. The book ‘Visuddha Smitha’ will complete its quarter century next year.
The small group that published this book also went through the changes that happened to Kerala society during this period. It changed a lot in many ways. Some became teachers. Others tried a new way. Some said goodbye forever.
After Smitha Andru the man!
Sivakumar Kangol, who published a book by pledging his wife’s bangles, has not published a book since. The bracelet could not be recovered from the bank or given to his wife. But Sivakumar says his wife Indu is happy with the book’s journey. Son Adityan studied at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and is also a singer. He also says that people will love the song he sings in his new film.
Yes, the movie! Sivakumar Kangol has left the book and is behind the film. He is in the final stages of releasing a film called ‘Andru the Man’ which talks about beef politics.
However, he says that although the field has changed, the debt has not. “Even after years, the situation has not changed. Movies are borrowed. The book did not survive financially. But the hope is that people will like, discuss and escape from this film. The only reason for that hope, if nothing else, is that book, which has been discussed for a quarter of a century, and is no longer available. She is also a real silk weaver. Shivakumar Kangol said.
Last Updated September 23, 2022, 9:17 PM IST