Enemies can’t kill Karnan because Karnan doesn’t exist
You are standing at a bus stand at 11 pm. A few drunk mobs are harassing the girl near you waiting for the bus. You develop some guts and try to be of her saviour but can’t do any good, rather taken over by them and hit in such a way you can’t get up any soon. You are getting up after some time, but they left and the girl is missing too. Anything might have happened to her, but the fact that matters here is, after that day, you can’t stop thinking of it all day; of course, how can you?
As you recover, both physically and mentally, with less anxiety and more clarity about that night, and definitely with more rage on such bastards, you replay that incident in mind and explore the alternatives you could’ve done. This time, you are putting yourself as an immortal because you don’t want to be defeated. You are subjecting your most capable version there and envisioning how different the situation could take turns, choosing your actions accordingly, to get things in control and take over those guys.
You are revisiting this incident every day, every time finding a new seemingly better way. Because, all you want is to conclude that night safe both for you and her, and if possible, painful for those mobs too, in any possible way, the way that has to be most brave, great and human when looked back at. In case, by gender, you are that girl, you would have your own imagination every day about the best way you handled that scenario. Okay, male or female apart, why do you do it often? Because you are sick of the reality and you want to give yourself a liberating narrative of that nightmare, a narrative that can be larger-than-life, that redeems you from the guilt of inaction or incapability, that empowers you to face such things in future, that makes you feel better.
In your narrative, what you value the most decides how the events happen. Based on who you are, your values can be safety, revenge, sympathy, rebelliousness, or anything you wish to see as your core identity while playing that incident. You construct your narrative based on such values, and in that universe, by disregarding the worldly vulnerabilities, you write your own fate in such a way those values are preserved, just to liberate yourself from that past.
But what’s important is, it needn’t be a self-feeding narrative in all cases. The pain is yours, and how it guides you to live through it varies from case to case. If you had been one of the survivors of Kodiyankulam, who also experienced or witnessed the Thamirabharani tragedy, who had been denied bus service and lost the loved one, education or anything you needed the most, you will want to give those untold pain a narrative not just to you but to all. If you feel your purpose lies in taking it to the big arena, only which does justice to your existence, yes,
- You will rename it as Podiyankulam, give it a time period you want and document their lives
- You will choose the immortal, Karnan, and subject him to that world
- You will make him express whatever goes unexpressed otherwise
- You will give him the voice you found missing in your community
- You will place him as the missing piece of the long-unsolved puzzle
- You will make him the ideal that personifies every small and big values your community was in pursuit of
- You will make him interact with the little threats that come his way and prepare him for the war
- You will pause his function for some time and document the Podiyankulam tragedy
- You will get Karnan back on the game and let him play your ideal
- You will orchestrate a fight between Karnan and Kannibiran, now not as individuals but as representatives of the oppressed and oppressing, respectively
- You will ask all your questions to Kannabiran through Karnan
- You will roar and register who you believe you are and who you will not be anymore.
- You will find Kannabiran remaining and reassuring himself
- You will find Karnan crying about his people’s tragedy he is destined to spectate, about the post-tragedy moment he is forced to handle, about the path he is going to choose in seconds, about his previously lived life that is going to vanish after choosing it.
- You will let Karnan conclude the moment the only way Karnan can.
One can’t think Mari Selvaraj’s ‘Karnan’ movie is about creating an oppressing group, letting it disturb the oppressed, cultivating Karnan’s anger scene by scene and channelling all of it through violence and feel satisfied. If it has to be that way, you will also have to agree Karnan’s beheading Kannabiran comes under revenge, which implies Mari Selvaraj is agreeing that Kannabiran’s head pays the price of all the deadly cries and lost livelihoods in the previous scene. But, we know Mari is not such a shallow thinker to conceive such an insensible drama, more than which he can’t vilify his community’s pain by equalling that to the loss of one officer’s life. Rather, it’s just how Karnan’s character arc can end.
So, Karnan is not the so-called hero material that we see in mass movies though we find in him all those heroic traits and might our mass heroes have. Karnan is not our role model too, for, at times, his function is beyond practicality, like smashing whoever comes his way. The character Karnan is a pen Mari Selvaraj discovered to write his narrative of the world he experienced and experiences, externally and internally, the pen which Mari writes with, the pen which writes by itself in between, the pen which breathes, the pen which liberates. So, enemies can’t kill Karnan because Karnan doesn’t exist, or put another way, only Karnan exists.