Mumbai Film Festival is over, but the hangover remains. And so here comes one more post. This is a guest post by Mohamed Thaver.
I recently saw ‘Killa’ (The Fort) at the MAMI film festival, a subtle, understated and beautifully woven coming-of-age narrative of an 11-year-old boy, who along with his mother, shifts to a Konkan town after his father’s death. ‘Coming of age’ movies – that seemed to be the flavor of the recently concluded MAMI film festival – by their very nature, demand a certain level of deft handling of the filmmaking craft, a nuanced, under the radar approach – one does not come of age with fanfare – bearing a ‘handle with care’ tag, as the object being worked with: childhood, is brittle indeed. Much to our delight, first time director Avinash Arun, understands that one exposure to an insensitive, over the top scene at that age, could result in a lifelong scar.
After watching the movie (more on it later) as I was walking back, I could almost visualize a certain recurring pattern develop in some good Marathi movies I had seen lately. A small joining the dots act, comprising of drawing mental lines from Shwaas to Shaala to Fandry and Killa – to name a few – revealed to me a certain aesthetic I had seen somewhere. I told my friend with some delight, ‘I think Marathi cinema is going the Iranian cinema way. Isn’t it?’
Although not exclusively, but Iranian cinema, from Children of Heaven to Colour Of Paradise, has more so always vied for the heart over the head, the innocent over the intelligent attitude to film making. It has been more interested in the simple everyday stories, mirroring on screen the day-to-day struggles faced by families, seen on several occasions from the point of view of young eyes and muddled heads. It is this innocence – that without proper treatment of the subject matter could risk seeming ineffective at best and banal at worst – that for me makes Iranian cinema endearing more than anything else.
Now having a look at some good movies to come out of Marathi cinema of late, from the poignant Shwaas to Shala, Fandry and now to Killa, the movies here do not rely on some larger than life characters or a cinematic twist in the tale or even a resolution. Rather moving to the other extreme, it tries to present a slice of life of the most common person that it could find, thereby making the theme universal. Here too, a’ la Iranain cinema, the simple head and inquisitive eyes of a child are turning out to be a preferred medium of communication. Like in Fandry, when Jabya because of being born in a particular caste, has to chase the pig in front of his school mates, the humiliation is complete and would not be lost on anyone who has ever been a child. This is not to say that the aesthetic similarity between Marathi and Iranian is of a deliberate nature, but a beautiful tool employed effectively by two very diverse cultures.
I think it is good news for Marathi cinema, because it does require a certain amount of confidence in your art for a director – and a first time director like Avinash Arun at that- to pick up a story like Killa, where you cannot hide behind on screen histrionics. In a recent interview, Vishal Bharadwaj talking about the vulnerability of a director said, “You can tell a lot about a filmmaker from the movie. The filmmaker is emotionally naked on the movie screen” It is a healthy sign that many Marathi filmmakers are willing take off the garb of everything that is not good cinema and stand naked before the viewers with regularity.
Now coming back to Killa, my friend who has grown up in Kolhapur sprinted down memory lane within the first few minutes of the movie. When Bandya is shown humming ‘chandrakanta ki kahani’ she could not believe it. It was almost like someone has gone into her mind and splashed forth her childhood on the big screen. A special mention of the inspired scene when Bandya, a full of life youngster along with friends do a dhina-dhin-dha Anil ‘Ram Lakhan’ Kapoor style to welcome a classmate who enters wearing glares. It is such a blend of keenly observed childhoods, humour and imagination that it creates magic on screen.
Several movies at MAMI received a standing ovation. For Killa, however, it did not stop at that. People just stood as the credits rolled over and then did not know what to do with themselves after the credits have rolled over. They wanted more. They wanted to relive their childhoods just a wee bit longer.