Explore these artistic sites in Mattancherry through 'Maara'
Deep, dark seas, coastal towns with painted streets, and mist-cloaked hill stations mark the paths of two people. Wanderlust coupled with the search for something deeper drives the main characters to find different people with different stories.
When retracing the steps of Maara (Madhavan) and Paaru (Shraddha Srinath) – the other protagonist – a map of rich variety develops.
Paaru’s journey begins when she travels to Mattancherry in Kerala’s coast to restore an old building. She begins exploring Mattancherry from Aspinwall House in Calvathy Road while recounting her escape from marriage to a fellow restorer.
This film location is noteworthy on two counts – as an art venue and a business house.
Aspinwall is known mostly for being the venue of Kochi-Muziris Biennale, the most prestigious art festival to be held in Kerala. However, before it became an art venue, it was a business office of a British company that exported goods from India. John H Aspinwall, who was owner of the company, also served as Chairman of Fort Kochi Municipality from 1875 to 1878. When he died in England, shops in Kochi shut down for a day as a mark of respect.
Even today, after a change in ownership of shares, Aspinwall continues business in logistics.
Streets of Mattancherry
After Aspinwall, Paaru begins to explore Mattancherry. She walks through streets filled with art and colour, marvelling at the beauty of it all. In one of these paintings, she finds a part of the tale she had heard when she was a little girl. The scene where she opens the window in Maara’s house and finds the whole painting on display in front of her is one that pays tribute to Mattancherry’s streets.
These streets were perfect to capture this moment of discovery since they are filled with art and portraits of local people in reality too.
Paaru’s attempt to track down Maara leads her next to an antique shop in Jew Town, located at the heart of Mattancherry, where she meets Usman Bhai, one of Maara’s friends.
This location represents Kerala’s historic multiculturalism. In the 16th century, the King of Kochi gave this land to the Jews who had come to trade. Now, the area does not have as many Jews since they migrated to Israel in 1948. Their traces, however, remain in the antique shops that the area is popular for. These shops preserved furniture, vessels and other curios of Jews who had dwelled in Jew Town, and who, after the establishment of Israel, had slowly trickled out.
Another trace of their presence is the spice markets in Jew Town. They earmark the Jewish culture in Kerala’s history because they were set up by the Jews who had originally come to trade.
Later, Paaru also travels to Mattancherry’s beaches and takes rides on boats across Kerala’s coastal waters. These beaches see the gathering of Maara’s true friends, so Maara could see who would mourn his "death".
These beaches witness the moment of connection Paaru finds with Maara, an identical soul with an irresistible penchant for travel.
Through the lens of Maara, Mattancherry is appreciated for some of its most well-known and heritage-rich sites and brought to life in ways that encourage one to visit the place.