Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Scenes From a Marriage

COLUMN: Spouse's Turn 

Bina Paul talks about life with the cinematographer/director Venu

Photo by Manu R. Mavelil 

By Shevlin Sebastian

In 1978, when Bina Paul was a student at the Film and Television Institute at Pune, she accompanied a senior by the name of Venu on a documentary shoot in Thane district in Maharashtra. Bina’s role was that of an assistant cameraman.

On the set, Venu got angry with Bina and kept shouting, “Go back. Move forward.”

Bina’s mind was in turmoil. She was thinking, ‘This is the guy I am in love with, but look at the way he is behaving.’

It was not a match made in heaven. They came from different backgrounds: while Bina grew up in Delhi, Venu is a Nair from Kottayam. Nevertheless, there was a mutual love and attraction.

Their first date was at an Irani restaurant in Pune where they bonded over a cup of tea. “It was not a fancy place, like you find today,” says Bina, with a laugh.

When Bina informed her parents, they did not take it seriously. They thought it was an infatuation. “Later, they were worried about whether we would be able to survive in the uncertain world of films,” she says.  

Anyway, the marriage took place on August 26, 1983, at Bina’s home in New Delhi. And there were all sorts of rituals.

Since my mother is a Hindu, we had Hindu rituals,” says Bina. “Then there were Nair rituals. Later, the eminent Paulose Mar Gregorius, of the Orthodox Jacobite church, said prayers.”

The most striking thing for Bina was the informality. “Nowadays people are over-dressed, it is such a formal setting, and they are all standing on stages,” says Bina. “My wedding was so simple. Our friends were telling us what to do, what not to do and everybody was laughing and having a good time. At that time, marriage was not such a big event.”

In fact, Bina wore a cream Banaras brocade saree, with a red border, which her mother had worn at her own wedding.

A couple of days later, the couple boarded a third-class train compartment and went to Kottayam where a reception had been arranged by her in-laws. Thereafter, they settled down at Thiruvananthapuram, and both have had distinctive careers in Mollywood: Venu in cinematography and direction, while Bina is an editor. In June, after a 12-year stint, Bina quit as artistic director of the International Film Festival of Kerala.

Through all their independent activities, the couple remained in love. “Venu is one of the most solid persons I have known,” says Bina. “He is generous, caring and loving. He always puts things in perspective. But he is also critical. Venu is not the type of person who will say good things all the time. That helps you to look at yourself in an objective way. In the initial years, I would get upset, but I knew it was for my good. He is my best critic.”

Venu’s drawback is that he has a short temper. “He gets angry but will go to the next room and come back and would have forgotten what the issue was,” says Bina. “But I would be fuming.”

Another tendency of Venu is to look at the world in black or white. This caused a tempestuous relationship with their daughter, Malavika, who did not like to be imposed upon. “But my daughter understood Venu better when she grew up,” says Bina. “Now they are very close.”

Malavika, 28, who is married to an Englishman, is an Outreach Programme Manager at Cambridge University.

Both Venu and Bina also work together. In Venu’s latest directorial venture, the acclaimed ‘Munnariyippe’, which stars Mammooty and Aparna Gopinath, Bina did the editing.

When I was working on the film, I felt that it would do well,” she says. “Venu was right next to me during the editing. He keeps saying that the only advantage you have if your wife is also the editor of your film is that you can shout at her. And, indeed, there were a lot of shouting sessions. But it was a tightly-shot film. I was hoping people would give the film a chance and they have, and it has done well. And both of us are so happy.”

She did go to the sets a few times, and felt amazed watching Mammooty at work. “He acts with so much of ease,” says Bina. “Mammooty understood the character he was playing so well.

The most amazing aspect of ‘Munnariyippe’ was the stunning and unexpected climax. “Hints were given throughout the film, but you had to watch out for it,” says Bina, with a smile.

When asked for tips for a successful marriage, Bina says, “You must give each other space. At times, you should do things separately, and have your own interests. Only then can you develop as a person. A lot of people feel that the husband and wife should go together everywhere. But, sometimes, a woman likes to go out alone and spend time with her friends.”

But, above all, for a good marriage, you need love. “It is the most important emotion,” says Bina. “So whatever troubles you face, love will help you overcome it.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)

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