Naval Oru Thodarkathai

What Bama Vijayam Can Teach Us About Resisting Modernity 

When someone asked Naval Ravikant what the biggest collective challenge for people over the next ten years, he replied with “resisting modernity”. 

Naval has regularly pointed out the ills of modernity which makes us live our lives a million times in our head before we live once in real, slowly eating away our lives, making us live as celebrities, perennially depressed. 

Turns out, like most truths, Naval’s words could be found in other sources too. Naval Oru Thodarkathai is hopefully a continuous exploration of such thoughts. 

I would like to clarify, modernity is not defined only in the view of adopting technology. Modernity also encomapsses growth, urbanness and competitive rat-race and celebrity culture.

Naval has regularly pointed out the ills of modernity which makes us live our lives a million times in our head before we live once in real, slowly eating away our lives, making us live as celebrities, perennially depressed. 

Resisting modernity cannot be achieved by reverting to an earlier state. It is human tendency to assume that opposites will solve problems, as though if we go back to an earlier time, adopt then prevalent methods, our current problems will move away, oh how life was simple and how happy we all were? (rhetoric)

Question: If modernity is our biggest challenge going forward, what is it the challenge to?

Answer: Happiness. 

Right, you do not agree with my definition of modernity? 

I agree, haven’t been quite clear, let me try again. 

Cut to 1967. 

In the black and white images of K Balachander’s Bama Vijayam, I rediscovered what Naval was trying to say (or my understanding of it). 

Bama Vijayam is a story of an entire family trying to resist modernity. Naval should watch it. 

And Bama, the actress, is the personification of modernity and celebrity culture(the 1960s equivalent of it), her arrival (Vijayam- good use of the word) brings with it a lot of changes to this simple family unit headed by Ethiraj(TS Balaiah).

This simple family unit, which has three caring daughter-in-laws who are content with their modest lives, with their modest working husbands and overall believable ‘cinematic simplicity’. 

They wash together, they cook together, they play together, they work together and they laugh together. Oh what fun. 

Kannadasan also sneaks in “oh what good does a pearl do to a happy woman?” 

It’s a great way to begin a movie about a family going downhill, show them at their idealistic best, show them in a way that their goodness shines through. 

“For what use are these riches being earned?” asks one of the trio, the other replies “some for our children, the rest for the whole wide world.”

So good they are! Even in their striving lower middle class setting,they have the exact goodness that some want to return to now in 2020. The comfort of the joint family, a benign patriarch, dutiful husbands, the good memories that children bring and the principles of living within one’s means. 

Cut to now.

So good right? Why did we lose all this?

Cut to 1967

But wait, they lose it too. 

When Bama comes in, first the family unit which now consisted of three couples slowly starts to break, suddenly being a neighbour to a cinema star brings on them-the need to progress socially, they borrow, they lie, they steal, they even betray. 

Since this is a comedy, all this is played for laughs.

What we are witnessing is the scene by scene destruction of a simple happy family unit that we so yearn to return to, while facing daily life in the present. 

In effect, the problem of resisting modernity is perennial, that is my extension to Naval’s quote and it does not depend on setting or status. 

When modernity tempts, few can resist, even the most simple and happy minded. 

Hey, we never said it was going to be easy, but there is way.

Resisting modernity might be our biggest problem, because it takes away our happiness, reducing us to playing never ending status games in our local celebrity cultures(which is what Bama Vijayam is also about). How prescient! 

But this modernity fellow is like devil and will surely crop up in other disguises like virtues and resisting it is not a complete solution but only an act of delaying. 

Focussed work is really the complete solution, and those who have seen Bama Vijayam will know. Work brings freedom from comparison, contentment and time and a calm mind to chose happiness over despair. 

A return to ideal state is possible in the movies as it is guided by the mind of the screenwriter.Not so easily attained in real life where the devil is more relentless and our real minds are much more fragile to temptations. 

In reality, there is no turning back, there is only moving ahead. 

Nandri. Vanakkam.

Stay tuned for more such nonsense explorations of twitter truths and pedestrian philosophy through the lens of non threatening and non current entertainment. 

Until then, listen to this amazing song in which Kannadasan-MSV are just hitting it out of the park. 

Kavignar Kannadasan would have made an interesting and insightful twitter account, hmpf, if only.

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