A tale of two rejections

Posted on June 22, 2017

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A flashback to moments from the 2001 Telugu drama ‘Tiladaanam’, the story of a priest who’s fallen on hard times.

Read the full article on Film Companion, here: https://www.filmcompanion.in/article/southern-lights-tiladaanam

KNT Sastry’s Tiladaanam (The Rite… A Passion) can be seen as a companion piece to Vamsha Vriksha, the Kannada drama discussed in this column last week. Both films are about an aging Brahmin forced to reckon with a changing world, exemplified by the next generation. In Vamsha Vriksha, it was a daughter-in-law, who wanted to go to college after the death of her husband. Here, it’s a son, who’s a Naxalite.

First, a word about the title, which refers to the ritual of giving sesame seeds as alms, which transfers the giver’s sins to the receiver, who is now considered an outcast. When we first glimpse Subbaiah Sastry, he’s receiving tiladaanam from a couple. The priest hands the offering to the couple and instructs them to “drop it to him from a height.” This done, they also drop a few coins, which Subbaiah accepts with a smile. He’s fallen on hard times, which is why he is reduced to being the recipient in this rite, instead of presiding over more auspicious events, like asking the gods to bless newborns or newlyweds.

In the next scene, Subbaiah is told that someone has died. He’s asked to be one of the four pallbearers. We soon see him near a white-shrouded corpse, but there’s a problem. One of the other pallbearers wants to be paid Rs. 200 for his efforts. A man – presumably the dead man’s son – says he can only afford half that amount. Subbaiah is moved by the man’s entreaties. He says, “Don’t pay me, sir. Give it to him instead. The poor fellow must be in dire need.” But the pallbearer spurns this offer. “You ceased to be a Brahmin when you started accepting tiladaanam. It is the lowliest thing to do. Who wants charity from you?”

Continued at the link above.

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