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aka The Rat Trap 1981 127’ col Malayalam d/s Adoor Gopalakrishnan p K. Ravindranathan Nair pc General Pics c Ravi Varma m M.B. Srinivasan lp Karamana Janardanan Nair, Sharada, Jalaja, Rajam K. Nair, Prakash, Soman, John Samuel, Balan K. Nair, Jaycee, Thampi

Unni (Karamana) is a middle-aged relic, the head of a parasitic family of the Nair community of ex-rent collectors in a decaying feudal society. His eldest sister Janamma (R.K. Nair) fights for her own family’s share of the feudal spoils; the obedient younger sister Rajamma (Sharada) is condemned to be both the slave and the surrogate mother of the indolent Unni until she collapses under the strain. The youngest sister Sridevi (Jalaja) is a student, defiantly pragmatic in her rejection of the old system. Confronted with any difficult situation, Unni withdraws like a rat into a dark hole and eventually sinks into paranoia. The film uses an obsessive, numbing rhythm and an intricate tapestry of close-ups, long shots and isolated sounds to convey the last gasp of a dying order as Unni runs through his house like a rat in a trap. As with Mukha Mukham (1984), his next film, the performance is pitched between naturalism and metaphor e.g. when Unni tries to make an inquisitive cow go away or shows a pathological fear of getting mud on his clothes. The director acknowledged autobiographical elements in the film, likening Unni’s house to his own ancestral home, but he added that the film is in fact about Kerala’s emergence into modernity.