Thursday, June 23, 2016

ഒഴിവുദിവസത്തെ കളി (Ozhivudivasathe Kali) (2015)

Director: Sanal Kumar Sasidharan
Writer:    Unni R 
Cinematographer: Indrajith S
Cast:      Nistar Ahamed, Arun Nayar, Pradeep Kumar, Baiju Netto, Reju Pillai, Abhija Sivakala
Language: Malayalam

The film follows five middle-aged men who get together for a booze party during an election day in Kerala. Their main intention is fun and refreshment but as time passes, they open up to their own true wild nature and starts getting really honest about things. Tired and bored of arguments, they decide to play a game that they used to play in their childhood.

It is based on a short-story by Unni R and was filmed without a screenplay. So what you hear is mostly improvised dialogues with the actors probably knowing where to go broadly based on the story. The portion after the interval, which comprises of around 52 minutes, is a single long take and is really an achievement for Malayalam film industry. Most of it happens within a room but you do have them going outside after an argument in pouring rain (artificial). That said, the trick you have to pull when you go for these extreme long shots is that you shouldn't make the audience feel conscious about it. That is not the case here as the camera sometimes follow very slowly some of its characters into other rooms and you get shots of walls lingering too much. Still, it is a commendable achievement when coupled with the fact that dialogues are improvised. 

The five friends in the film represents all Malayalees. You have a Brahmin, a newly rich NRI guy, a pseudo-liberal government officer, a middle caste bourgeoisie guy and finally someone from lower caste who is dark in complexion. All of them, despite being friends, gradually behaves in the manner they are expected to behave based on their caste and economic background. In Kerala, due to land reforms and all, Brahmins don't exert power like they do in the rest of India as economic heft is not their anymore. It is usually the non-Brahmin upper caste and middle caste people, who got rich, that behave in the most odious way when it comes to propagating the old social order. That is not to say that it is restricted to Hindus because caste system pretty much works across all religions in Kerala. The five characters in the film more or less adhere to their own social hierarchical place and the Dalit among them is named Dasan, which translates as servant. It is him that is made to do difficult jobs like climbing a tree to get a jack-fruit and kill a chicken for them to cook. He is also the one who is interested in politics while the remaining ones have a contempt for it. The NRI guy boasts about voting for NOTA, while the Brahmin guy procures a bottle of alcohol on the false promise that he will get his family to vote for a party. Some of them also longs for the good old days of Emergency when the trains ran on time and files moved quickly in Govt offices.This is another argument that one hear from idiots who think a dictatorship is something thing that India requires.

Finally, the game that they play involves drawing lots to determine who will be the Judge, King, Minister, the Police and the thief with the Police having the duty to declare him as such and find the thief among them. Even though they are drawing lots, all of them end up with the role that they are expected to play in terms of their position in the social hierarchy. The game then becomes a reflection of the state of corruption and social justice in India. Over the course of the film, they discuss various topics in an alcohol fueled manner including their attitude towards women and their own patriarchal selves. They use sync-sound for the film and some of the dialogues are a bit hard to decipher. It is highly recommended to watch it in a theater with good sound equipment.

The title of the film translates as 'An Off-Day's Game'. It won the state award for best picture in 2015 and it is very nice to see it getting a good release and response. It was made with a budget of just 14 lacs. Good thing about the film is that it doesn't shout its politics from rooftops and you can gleam whatever you want to from it. The performances are excellent from all concerned and it is a must-watch.

Rating: 5/5