Gundello Godaari – Godavari In Your Heart
ANDHRA PRADESH, TELANGANA, SEEMANDHRA
That is the title of the Telugu film that I watched this week – Gundello Godaari. In rural Andhra slang, it means – Godavari in your heart.
For a long time now, or more accurately, from the time I can remember, I have had no significant identification with Andhra Pradesh, and much less with Andhra cinema.
For me `Andhra’ meant the place I was born, the place where my parents belong to, the place where my ancestors established their roots. For me, `Andhra’ was merely identification on a piece of paper. There was no `Andhra’ in my heart. Never really having lived here & never really having had an occasion to absorb its culture by being a part of it – I gave myself the status of a non-resident Andhra – a part of it but not really a part of it.
My identification was with `Ahmedabad’. Gujarat. I was an `Amdavaadi’. I grew up there; belonged there; knew all about garba, khaman, dhokla, manek chowk, navrangpura … it has been my identity.
Then comparisons play in the mind. I’m part of this rich, vibrant, colorful, dynamic, liberated, sweeter, prettier Gujarati culture vis-à-vis I’m not part of this rough, unpolished, undiplomatic, static, spicy, rigid Andhra culture.
I don’t want to speak Telugu; I don’t want to marry here; I don’t want to live here; I don’t want to cook like here; I don’t want to dress like here; but I have to make an appearance here, because I was born here, my parents belong here & this is the land where my ancestors grew their roots centuries ago.
That perhaps sums up the mindset of every Andhra, who has lived & domiciled outside of Andhra Pradesh.
The only time I felt a significant difference in this attitude was during my multiple trips to hometown Gudivada in Andhra Pradesh, in connection with the sale & disbursement of my late Grandfather’s house & properties.
When I had sat for the last time on the steps of Grandpa’s old house knowing that it wouldn’t be there when I came next, I felt as if I had lost a part of myself and was filled with a regret that I should have connected more while there was still time.
In a bid to salvage something, I had plucked a huge bunch of wild jasmine flowers from his garden; and I had picked up a large round stone from his kitchen which my Grandpa had used, to grind sandal sticks to make sandal paste, for the meticulous `dot’ on his forehead after pooja. I have preserved those dried bunch of jasmine flowers & I still have that stone on my writing table. When I feel lost & disconnected, they transport me into another world where Grandfather talks to me.
In this visit of mine – February / March 2014 – when I landed at Hyderabad airport & made my way into `Telangana’ – I realized that Andhra Pradesh no longer existed. And I was overwhelmed with that same feeling – that things would never be the same again; that I have lost a part of myself; and a feeling of regret that I should have connected more with Andhra Pradesh, while there had yet been time.
It was a catharsis of sorts & a resolution too – to hold on to the memory of Andhra Pradesh, to let go of Telangana without regret, to build better bonds with Seemandhra.
I have been making a special effort this time around – I’m understanding the changed geography, the current political scenario, the cultural differences, the unpublicized traveler’s delights … and anything else that comes my way.
In the midst of this inner transformation – I watched a movie. Gundello Godaari. Godavari in your heart. I watched this movie out of sheer extra time on my hands; I watched it to figure out why it bagged so many awards; I watched it to see if I could endure the fisherman slang of the Godavari belt; I watched it to see if I could connect with good old rustic Andhra.
I really don’t know what I hoped to achieve by enduring this film – but what resulted was an inner insight that took me to a next level of realization. Gundello Godaari – a Telugu film worth my time & the awards that it bagged.
GUNDELLO GODAARI – GODAVARI IN YOUR HEART
The film begins with iconic cinematography – river Godavari in flood. In a small village on the banks, a marriage is being solemnized. A series of small events lead to seeding of doubts in the minds of bride & groom about each other. River floods flow in & all present run for shelter, leaving the newlyweds stranded in midst of rushing waters. They help each other to reach the top of a thatched hut flowing in the stream. Drifting into nowhere and waiting for the next burst of rain that will sink them both – they confront each other about the events during the marriage, and the doubts that have been seeded in their respective minds.
Facing impending death, sitting in the heart of a flooded Godavari, they decide to unburden their respective hearts as they have nothing to lose from doing so. And the story begins thus.
What follows is a narrative from the bride & the groom – about the darkest secrets of their lives and the series of lies that followed it, to keep those secrets buried deep within.
Sitting in the midst of Godavari’s flooded waters – another kind of flood builds & flows – the flood of emotions & truth from their respective hearts. Their eyes & hearts overflow in a flood of tears & words, till there is nothing left to hide or conceal.
In cinematographic symbolism – sitting in the heart of Godavari, Godavari enters their hearts to create a flood where it cleanses all impurities leaving behind an unbreakable bond forged on truth & understanding. Truth has 2 facets to it – 1 person’s truth & the other person’s understanding & acceptance of that truth.
The film leaves you with many questions:
Why are we afraid of truth? Isn’t truth all that there is? Then why do we create a web of illusions & lies to sustain human relationships? Is it true then, that most human relationships do not have the strength to withstand the impact of truth? Are lies & illusions a security net so that we don’t lose relationships? Then does it mean that our presentation of our relationships to the world is a mere façade? Or does it mean that we don’t want a relationship forged from truth, because then we risk losing the multiplicity of other relationships that give us a feeling of popularity & security?
This leads us to more pertinent questions in life: What do we really want from life? Do we really know? Is it simply an urge to possess things & people? If we had to choose between the cold exposed nakedness of truth & the warmth that comes from a blanket of lies – what would we choose?
If we were to wake up to every day as if it were our last day & if we were to meet every person as if we were meeting them for the last time – would it make any difference to the way we woke up, the things we did, the way we met, or the things we said?
The film asks questions but gives you no answers. It simply slaps your consciousness to find its own answers.
I can now understand why the human soul leaves behind its wealth, possessions & even its own precious human body before it is allowed to ascend to merge with the Divine. You can’t hold on to anything else when you want to merge with your higher self. And if you are not able to let go of all & everything, then it isn’t time yet.
Most of us usually come a very long way in life, in human relationships & human realizations. But there is always that proverbial `6 degrees of separation’ that are the hardest to cover. An Olympic athlete once said – in a 1000 meters race, when you have covered 900 meters, you have won only half the race, the other half is in those 100 meters.
Run the race. Give it your best shot. Cherish the distance you have covered. Don’t fret if you fall short of the finish line. There is a time & tide for everything. When the flood will come, it will envelope you & everything else – and throw you across the finish line. Simple as that.