Innocence, Lost

Shala (School) begins with a quote by Jim Morrison: “I am free.” In my mind, a film could not go wrong from there.

Shala, a Marathi film directed by debutant Sujay Dahake, and adapted from the novel by Milind Bokil, is a film that will take you back to your school days, making you relive your moments of friendship, love: lost and won, freedom and growing up.

The story takes place within the backdrop of the Emergency in a rural Maharashtrian town. Mukund Joshi (Anshuman Joshi) and Surya Mhatre (Ketan Pawar) are best friends in the 9th standard. Teachers stress on studying well as they would soon be appearing for their Board Exams. But as in wont with children of that age, Mukund and Surya have other plans. Surya likes Kevada (Mukta Vaidya) who never returns his affection, while Mukund falls for Shirodkar (Ketaki Mategaonkar) who too likes him.

What happens next is ably summed up by the John Lennon quote that Mukund’s maternal uncle Narumama (Jitendra Joshi) imparts to him: Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

Such poignant stories like in Shala are a rarity in Indian cinema. The storytelling is crisp, the direction assured, although it is Dahake’s debut. The film is not all-sweet. There is a serious undertone throughout, with the Emergency and a suicide being thrown in the picture too. But the story never diverts from the crux that is Mukund’s life and his growing-up. It reminds you of To Kill A Mockingbird which took a serious issue like racism and told it from a child’s point of view.

All the child actors are perfect in their roles. Each stereotype is present here. The science geek, the bully friend, the gossip mongers, the lovebirds, the class-traitor, but the magic lies in how Dahake and his writer Avinash Deshpande takes these outlines of seemingly familiar characters and make us want to go to school with them. He would not have succeeded if the child actors weren’t so good. They were also helped by the senior actors especially Nandu Madhav who plays Mukund’s father and Santosh Juvekar who plays the History professor.

The camera is a silent spectator, helping us grab each nuance of childish mischief and innocent longing among the ‘actors’. At the same time, I had a little problem with the clarity during the establishing shots of the town; which could have been due to the screen I watched the film at. Otherwise, Diego Romero’s cinematography was some of the best seen in recent times. The score by Alokananda Dasgupta deserves a worthy mention here for its subtle, sublime effect. And yes, do not miss the opening credits: a fully animated section based on the Belgian ligne-claire method of animation.

When Shala ended, what I felt was something that I could compare only to what I felt after watching Udaan. Quite a coincidence because Udaan too featured a Jim Morrison lyric from The Doors song Break On Through: “You know the day destroys the night, the night divides the day. Try to run, try to hide; break on through to the other side.” And I couldn’t help thinking how Mukund too, at the end of the film, has to now cross over to the other side, the side of adulthood, sometimes harsh and, yet, inevitable.

Written by Runcil Rebello.


5 Reasons Why Engeyum Eppodhum Is A Must-Watch!!

Perspective is that eleven letter word that distinguishes an artist from an average person.

I had mentioned in my earlier post that ‘perspective’ is one subject that always fascinates me. I’m a die-hard fan of the word itself. So, when Suresh, one of my best friends, with whom I share a hell lot of similar perspectives, told me that he “couldn’t get the sadistic feel off his mind for a complete day” after watching Engeyum Eppodhum, I was completely shocked. After all, it is the same movie that impressed me on many levels. In fact, I’d say that it’s one of the best Tamil movies ever made. Why do I feel so? Here is my perspective summarised in five different sections.

1.      The Message:

I beg to differ with the many people who feel that Engeyum Eppodhum is basically the story of two couples whose lives converge at a road accident. The reason is simple. The movie’s premise is set in the very first scene. You don’t see the couples. You don’t see the romance between them. You see only the accident. Also, the accident serves as a pivot for the whole movie. So, according to me, the movie is mainly about road safety and not about the transience of life. Whether or not one’s longevity is assured is unknown. That’s a topic better left untouched.

Also, the end credits of the movie shows newspaper reports of accidents that take place on highways. That is more than enough to understand that the movie is mainly about road safety.

2.      The Visual Effects:

What could possibly go wrong when a production house like Fox Star Studios has financed for the movie? The visual effects are too good and very realistic. The accident sequence is almost a minute long and that single minute seems like an hour as it visualizes each and every minute detail associated with such an event. You should see it to believe it.

3.      The Screenplay and Editing:

First and foremost, road safety and highway accidents are some areas that are mostly explored only by documentary makers. Debutante director, M. Saravanan has done a tremendous job. None of the scenes are boring and never does one feel like leaving the theatre. Moreover, the movie, which is just 2 hours and 20 minutes long, is quite “short” by Indian film standards.

4.      The Actors:

The lead actors – Jai, Anjali, Sharvanand and Ananya – have done a very decent job. Anjali, as the straightforward, progressive young girl, makes you smile on several instances. You can’t help supporting her actions in the movie. Jai, as the innocent lover boy, is continuing to mature as an actor. Sharavanand can be happy that Engeyum Eppodhum has done what his debut Tamil movie failed to. He has got the looks, he has got the skill. I guess we can see more of him in the near future. The same can be said of Ananya as well. Sharvanand and Ananya look cute as a couple. The ending scene in the hospital reminded me of Alaipayuthey (Saathiya) though.

Though the majority of the movie shows huge portions of the lead couples’ lives, each and every passenger in the two buses has a story to tell. The love story of the college students, the story of the man returning from Dubai and the story of the newly-married couple are all well-made and everyone has done a good job of essaying their roles to perfection.

5.      Cinematography:

The movie has some unusual, yet wonderful camera angles. The initial scenes in which they show servicing the buses are classy. It was quite surprising that someone could even get such good angles from unbelievable places. The final word is you should see it to believe it. Kudos to the cameraman, Velraj!

Having said all these, I still stick to my opinion that Engeyum Eppothum is one of the best Tamil movies ever made. It’s certainly a must-watch and you must watch it in a theater!

Written by Vinay Kumaar.