The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, November 26, 2000

The cameraman calls the shots
By N. Kunju

MARRIAGE in Kerala used to be a ritual. Now it is more visual. The videomania did it.

Like justice, it won’t just do if marriages are performed; they should also appear to have been performed. And video-recording is vital evidence. The whole wedding is captured and encapsulated in a video-tape — sound, sight, colour and all.

Dowryless marriages are now common. But, no video, no marriage — insist bridegrooms. The prospective father-in-law are made to add some three thousand bucks to the marriage expense.

Gone are the days when girls could feign grief and shed tears while parting from their parents. In the video-marriages, it has to be all smiles. The bride look coy, but never shy. It has to be good acting and the videocameraman is quite a strict director. It is he who conducts the marriage now, not the priest. The priest too has to act under video-direction.

Let me recount the ‘taping of a marriage’ I attended recently in that land of coconuts. (In Kerala, the young used to be bookworms; now they are "tape" worms.) The camera came alive with the make-up of the girl. The beautician got more prominence than the bride. Every item of the makeup — hairstyle, applying powder and lipstick, manicuring and polishing nails, flower-decking — was vividly shot in full sight of the onlooking crowd. With video, everything became public. There is no privacy any longer.


Matches are said to be made in heaven, but marriages here take place in the next best place, the temples. So the beautician’s finished product, the bride, is taken to the temple in a car. Since it is the bride’s party that pays for the video, the camera lingers long at the bride’s house and roadside scenery en route the temple. Then it anxiously waits, along with the bride and party, for the groom to appear. The "boy" comes in a car well dressed, but he has to remove his shirt, for, in Kerala, men have to enter the abode of God bare-chested.

The marriage ceremony itself is mostly for the benefit of the video and is directed by the cameraman. The bride has to smile all the while and smartly undergo the rituals. The tape will be sent to her brother in the gulf.

The priest for the marriage is chosen for his good voice, though no one, including him, understands his chanting. If the video doesn’t catch a scene properly, it has to be retaken. The director may not shout ‘cut’ , but it almost amounts to that. The ritual of garlanding is repeated twice or thrice to get the correct shot.

The ceremony over, the couple are led into the car and driven home all in filmi style. Later, gifts for the couple and the feast get prominence on the tape. People spend more on the packing than the gift because it is the package that would be seen on the video. As for the feast, the quality and the quantity have to come out vividly. Of course, it is the colour, not taste and smell, that matters. Everyone wants his eating to be recorded. In some cases, the cameraman has to wait till half the rice in the plantain leaf is consumed before the face behind the heap can be focused into view.

It is wrong to think that only the marriage will feature on the videotape. In fact, the additions at the stage of editing in the studio make more than half of the cassette. Included in the wayside scenes would be snow-clad mountains of the Himalayas and lakes of Nainital. Between the temple and home are often inserted most of the monuments and tourist spots of India. Then there can be fantasy shots — the couple riding a crescent moon surrounded by stars or the favourite deity coming in person to bless the newly-weds.

Even after the guests have left, the camera works into the night. The couple are shown entering the decorated bridal chamber and the door being closed from inside. Thank goodness, the camera is left to linger on at the closed door from outside.

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