Monday, December 09, 2013

Crying Ladies

I do not remember my first Tagalog film but I certainly first developed a taste for them while we lived in Malaysia via TV and Malaysia's finest: pirated DVDs of the most excellent quality.
Outstanding are La Visa Loca and Pinoy Blonde.
However, a Tagalog film is not something you stumble upon ever day and I long hungered to see The Crying Ladies. Perhaps I had seen a review of it, the DVD cover?
Anyway, I finally got to see it last night and it was extremely satisfying.
The film is basically about three women who function as hired mourners at Chinese funerals. I have observed a similar custom in India both in personal experience and via cinema.
When I was in my undergraduate years I attended a college for women where a lot of girls came from nearby villages. There was a very sweet girl who passed away of some illness at that time and we had gone to her village house to offer condolences. Even as we approached we saw village women who suddenly broke into wailing and beating their chests as soon as they crossed the gate.
While it is an antithesis to expect humour in a film about death, Crying Ladies is an affectionate look at the Philippines in all its aspects: family, love, sex, addictions, sins, religions and, of course, death.
It is a film which would be widely enjoyed in India as a lot of the funeral customs will seem familiar but more than that it is the gentle personalities, the accepting nature of the characters-accepting the failings and foibles of friends and relatives, and even those of oneself. 
In the span of one film you get a taste of the cuisine, glimpses of the day to day life of commoners and their dreams and ambitions.
Another aspect which brings the movie close to the Indian psyche is the ease with which the different religions stand shoulder to shoulder with almost no contradiction or conflict. The funeral service is simultaneously conducted by Buddhist monks and a Christian priest. The language uses a Muslim origin word for thanks: Selamat, to quote just one example of the vibrant presence of Islam also in the hodgepodge.
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