Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Seelabathi: Cinema Can Be Art!


In my previous entry I said that I ran across a few movies, well this was one of them. But I didn't buy it as 

1) Apart from Kavya Madhavan and Narein none of the names or faces rang a bell.
2) As much as Kavya can be a good actress when she chooses to, what if this is normal romantic fare? 

Classic example of see-cover-no-judge case there for me. I went home, did a small online research(where else do you research these days anyway), came across one review, one torrent and one stream. To give you a quick verdict, the movie is on my delivery queue now.

R. Sarath, the writer/director of this movie had previously done 2 movies. Sayahnam(2000) had won numerous state, national and international awards/recognition but maybe around 25 Rupees as box office collections. The second, Sthithi(2002), that starred singer Unni Menon may have fared slightly better as I remember the song 'Oru Chembaneer' was on regular play on most TV channels. Thus the movie starts and Im immediately disappointed at the quality of production. Video is maybe of a normal TV Serial quality, and Im sure I heard the microphone boom and crackle once or twice or maybe Im being too cynical. But you'd forgive all that once you get a proper view of the locations and the serenity of the environment, where the story is about to be unveiled. Sumangala(Urmila Unni) and her daughter Seelabathi(Kavya) is visiting their native village in Kerala, from Kolkata. Sumangala is the subject of a female worship ritual at the local temple. The director cleverly inserts a few scenes that capture the mismatch of attitudes, though trivial, among the new and older generations. Sumangala, though reluctantly, leaves her daughter back as she returns when the head teacher of the local school offers a temporary job for Seelabati, who is awaiting results of her computer PG. Though, not without some initial troubles, Seelabathi soon blends in with the life of the village and she makes it a practice to look after her ill grandfather, taking him to the doctor etc. The gentle and caring doctor Jeevan(Narein), is also a newcomer to the village. Seelabathi, though evidently only an everyday young girl, win the hearts of her students with her friendliness, which is misinterpreted by some. The peace and quiet of the village was soon to be disturbed as many new machinery, brought to the village to dig bore-wells, which in its discreet loudness also effects the availability of water and overall balance of life. Director Sarath quite cleverly juxtaposes the woman, with the earth. The village that practiced female worship earlier is now disturbed with the news of young abused girls and chaos. The director easily switches between the earth and woman angles, delivering subliminal symbols and messages throughout, like when the grandfather who's overly worried about his cattle, the negligence and death of one, and later the row among the women over collecting well-water. This is also what makes the film seemingly simple, but complex on repeated watching, which ofcourse I did, finding a new interpretation on each. The effect it has on Seelabathi forms our view of direction, which can only be understood once its watched.

In the acting department, its not anyone's movie. Noone can be said to be better than an other, in one of the best group performances seen on screen lately. It would be difficult to pick one character who hasn't preformed naturally. The crew being rather unknown faces help, as it is easy for us to picture them as everyday villagers, as opposed to stars/actors. If there was one star in the movie it would be the writer/director for being able to produce a controlled performance from the cast and more importantly for creating the characters the way they are. Also to be noted is the cinematography(in-spite of the downs concerning quality as aforementioned), the framing and overall environment with props to Anand Balakrishnan who is credited for photography. He captures just what you'd have in mind when you think of a peaceful and unadulterated village with people brimming with innocence and devoid of the crookedness associated with a more
modern society. There are 2 songs, both fitting the aura of the theme, one at the intro and another after the end credits, penned by Mohan Varma and composed by Ramesh Narayan who also scores the background music.

Cinema can be a message, a means of entertainment; this is art, with messages for those who care to give it a little time and thought. Im sure, there are more gems out there that can warrant you spending your time and money on them. If only a share of the money, spent on the atrocities and lunacy-fests we call blockbusters, were spent on promoting meaningful cinema, that can be categorised as art with a guilt-free mind! Wishes eh?

1 comment:

redhuedreams... said...

"Well Written Buddy. Continue the good work."