'Love Laws' by Cheriyan Lydia Nathalia - The LaSalle Show '09

I had a funny thought that ‘Love Laws’ could be renamed ‘Love Claws’. This is an Indian version of Romeo and Juliet with more pain. ‘Love Laws’, the term refers to traditional Indian rules that govern love and marriage in Indian society. Once breached, get prepared to be ‘clawed’ (in some real-life cases, torched by relatives). The film runs along a very conventional narrative and a rather trite theme. This made the film very predictable. At its best, it appeared to be a relatively well-produced drama made for television – clear and bright visuals (none of that shadowy, atmospheric look); black and white characters; and idiot-proof establishment of the narrative.

Ammu Kochamma is a widow who is about to undergo another arranged marriage to a wealthier man. She lives under an iiron-fisted woman who appears to be her foster mother or guardian. One of the derived joys of watching such Cinderella stories is to see how malovelent the stepmothers can get. This one gets a 7 out of 10 from me for lack of creativity. Ammu (sound like a man’s name) is secretly in love with Velutha, a labourer-type man. In fact, they plan to flee. They devise a plan but are outsmarted by the people we love to hate. And in an almost closed-ended fashion, it drives home a rather dismal message about life – that we have to submit to the system.

For all the eye-popping, human-rights violating news we hear about injustices towards women and especially pertaining to marriages, this seems like just a scratch on the ice-berg. It deserves some credit for authenticity though. The team has certainly gone out of the way to make this (in India). Unless you tell me, the thing was staged somewhere ulu (remote) along the Singapore-Malaysia railway track. To add to its excellent production values, a cultural dance provided some spectacle (oh, those cylindrical boobies).

On a side note, I made an observation about the casting. I wonder if it is meant to reflect the caste system in India. The leads, or rather the eloping pair were darker-skinned than the villains – the stepmother and the ‘arranged’ husband. So unlike Cinderella, even when she transforms, she may never be highly regarded enough in her society.

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