Kadal : or why we make movies.
This is a clarification. I love maniratnam films. I like their good intention I like the wildly successful experiments(dil se, Bombay kannathil mutthamittal) when a cinematographer- director combination clicks, even if the director benefits from the fluency of the cameraman’s language without quite understanding it completely. I love how the combination works, the director would set out the vision for the story in an eonomic verbal thread, the camera would render it , and the result would be sheer poetry
So why the fuck is maniratnam still making movies?
Kadal comes out like a lunatic raving nightmare with spaces of absolute lucidity. It feels like one was watching the onset of alzimers in an old poet,wheeled out to make an exhibition of himself. you come back home and rush to watch ravanan….pallavi anupallavi….roja….again to reassure yourself.It IS deterioration of narrative motor skills. you DID NOT dream up the magic from his earlier films. KADAL IS the mess.
I guess the film is an hommage to the Backwater films from kerela. (kutty sranku, G Aravindan’s films..esthappan….) and also suspect that the well intentioned director was trying to film something about Indian christians in tamil nadu. Just that the film makes eveyone(and not just orthodox christians) want to slit their wrists in frustration.
Spaces of lucidity
The film suffers from its spaces of absolute lucidity. some compositions are a photographer’s delight. Portrait shots from the street work are very well. some sequences (specially crowd sequences ) are like nothing you have seen in indian cinema. but Rajeev menon doesn’t get away with compliments alone. Camera subverts the catatonic semblence of the director’s voice. It doesn’t OVERRULE it with an alternative narrative,(like some of santosh’s work can sometimes do), it just sings a tune independant of the film . It feels like you are watching a three hour long commercial for Mindscreen institute couched as a public service message about india’s poor.
The other mistake I think he’s making is , all bombast aside, maybe he should have chosen a non digital camera. You need to dedicate your life to MAKING and ALTERING colors in digital images (or at least get some serious training) for your vision to get translated to “natural eye colors” in Digital cameras. Santosh sivan is there. Maybe Ravi K Chandran is…but good cinematographers like Madhu Ambat have just stuck to excellently shot film camera work, and have emerged the better for it.
There’s reason I say this. if you are shooting a 30 second spot, the bombast/gimmickary of digital photography overcomes the fact that images look unreal because digital sensors are somewhat disproportionately skewed to the better lit portions of your image. But if it’s gimmick after gimmick for three hours, your mind has caught on to the fact that there is a camera intermediating the story and the illusion of reality you are trying to create through the narrative is lost . It is not as if images should not look stylized , but understanding how to deliver an absolute natural texture of your image’s color would , I would think be an essential skill for a feature film cinematographer.
Except for a couple of lucid sequences the film comes across as a patronizing version of a Bala film.(pitamahan) (I ought to feel offended on behalf of all poor christian fisherfolk).The parts that work are the early ones where the child crying for his dead mother. Compelling. Thulasi Nair does absolutely amazing work,even if she is somewhat overworked, and Gautam Karthick’s charishma is wasted, although well photographed.
The music is a complete what the fuck.??!! there’s a sequence where they set gospel music to something tht looks like a fashion shoot for soudi arabian women in a hijab that made me slow walk (back to screen) to the toilet until the song ended. I also found the fashion shoot in the andamans …..sad ….considering the weighty nature of the narrative.
Are you patronizing us(the audience?)
All in all I came away wondering why in the name of hell did they wheel out a paralyzed maniratnam brain to give us the benefit of his atrophy. do we enjoy making a spectacle of a once good director!? Enough. I call for graceful retirement. I will always have Geetanjali.