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Breaching the Fortress

Friday, July 03, 2015
By Deepa Gahlot

In quick succession-- Court,  Kaaka Mutthai, and now Killa have somewhat restored faith in the power of good cinema. Finally, it looks like multiplexes are doing their bit to screen films that need an extra push. At least for Marathi films, the ‘diktat’ that made it mandatory for them to be screened in multiplexes, as well as the tax exemptions offered, have helped build audiences. If they are not busting the bank to see a film, middle class audiences do support alternative cinema.

Last weekend, an evening show of Avinash Arun’s debut feature Killa was packed with families. If children are exposed to offbeat cinema, they might just grow up as connoisseurs. The film has no commercial elements, it does not even have much of a story, but just beautiful moments and fabulous technical values. It’s very influenced by the austerity of some European films; that so many Marathi films are about children could have something to do with all those Iranian films that come to our festivals. Making films about kids helped Iranian filmmakers circumvent the country’s strict censorship rules.

The national and international award-winning Killa is about a young school going boy, Chinmay (Archit Deodhar) and his just-widowed mother (Amruta Subhash). As if the trauma of losing a loved one was not enough, she is transferred from Pune to a small coastal village, and Chinmay is separated from his friends and his uncle’s family, that provided him an emotional anchor. The experience makes Chinmay sullen and a little difficult to handle, for the young mother who has burdens of her own. She is having trouble at her job and has just an old neighbor as a confidante. The two try to cope with their inner turmoil in their own way, somehow not being able to offer the other the support that would have made the bereavement and uprooting bearable.

Still, as children do, Chinmay manages to make friends at school among them the impish Bandya (Parth Bhalerao of Bhootnath Returns), and tough guy Yuvraj (Gaurish Gawade), whose status as the son of the local smuggler gives him a fan following.

In terms of momentum, nothing much happens, just a bunch of everyday incidents; the one big crisis in the mother’s work place is underplayed. It is eventually about the two-member family learning to cope with what life throws at them. Everything that happens may not even be directly linked to the story –like Chinmay’s encounter with a fisherman (Umesh Jagtap), but it matters. Avinash Arun said in an interview that the story of Killa is partly autobiographical, and came from his own problems in dealing with his father’s transferable job.

The locations are picturesque, the children utterly charming and the story so touchingly real that it stays in the mind long after the film is over. What also remains is the echo of the applause that greeted the film at the end. And the audience was not made up of festival regulars, which is what builds some hope for non-commercial cinema. Next stop, Masaan...

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