Durga, a north Indian migrant and a Keralite youth named Kabeer are running away on a midnight. They are waiting for a transport to the nearest railway station to catch a train to a distant...
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Durga, a north Indian migrant and a Keralite youth named Kabeer are running away on a midnight. They are waiting for a transport to the nearest railway station to catch a train to a distant place. Two small time gangsters, transporting arms, offer assistance to the couple. The hapless "Durga" encounters a cross section of the society through the rest of the night. Parallel to the journey of Durga another mysterious event inter-cuts in the film. In a Kerala village, devotees perform 'Garudan Thookkam', a ritual art form submitted as a reward for the problems solved in the abode of Goddess Kali, who represents Goddess Durga's personified wrath and embodied fury.
Got 1st prize in the Tiger Competition of the Rotterdam film festival. I expected more than it eventually delivered. Seems directed towards viewers in India rather than here
This movie won 1st prize in the Tiger Competition of the Rotterdam film festival 2017, which I know now but not yet when seeing it. Being selected as one of the only eight nominees for this competition, gives rise to expectations. But alas, I cannot think of any reason why this movie deserved such a prestigious place. As explained in the final paragraph below, this movie will definitely have more impact on viewers living in India, highlighting things that are not so obvious for us living here in a Western country. It will explain the "horror" label better, because it did not work on me that way.
There were a few interesting things, however, to start on a positive note. Always nice to see some foreign folklore around religious festivities. We see dancers in trance, people lifted on meat hooks in their bodies while driven around yet not at all looking in pain, people running through still heated remains of a bonfire, statues carried around, and more such local folklore. Apart from that shown in an extensive opening scene, plus a few extra fragments later, the journey of the two lovers on the run was clearly the main course.
The scene with the policemen was also a bit of local folklore. This was police harassment in full colors, in spite of a complete lack of violence, just pestering with useless questions while looking for ways to let them pay further fines for relatively trivial offenses. It was remarkable that the police overlooked the real offenses, like the fact that the car was stolen, and that the driver had no license. Also, the two passengers on the back seat (our hitchhiking couple) were only glanced at and not asked any pertinent question. After the foursome were allowed to continue their journey, one of the men wondered whether it were real policemen, something that seems to happen there all the time.
The synopsis on the festival website announced this movie as "horror", and it is also one of the IMDb genre labels, but I found it not so much belonging to that category. The two lovers are trying to hitchhike and were invited by two men in a van, who were asking a lot of questions and pressured the couple for answers, like where they were heading. They asked these questions apparently with good intentions, not only to have a pleasant conversation while underway, but also with intent to drop them at an appropriate place. Nevertheless, it came over as intimidating, though the two men repeatedly were confused to see that the couple wanted to leave the car several times. It reminded me of a recent movie Nocturnal Animals (2016, Tom Ford), with a really horrific scene in which a car with a man, wife and daughter is threatened by a gang, who make it extra frightening by mixing helpfulness and intimidation, confusing the victims as well as viewers about their real intentions, and letting us constantly in suspense how this would end.
Back to Sexy Durga: Later on, they managed to leave the van while some cases with "tomatoes" (their words; I'd rather assume weapons) were unloaded. After that intermediate stop, two extra men joined the two in the van. In separate shots we see the runaway couple continuing their journey on foot, but were held up by two men on a motorbike, who were very insistent to know who they were and what their destination was. This felt, in my opinion, more threatening than the previous scenes in the van. To their rescue came aforementioned van (now with four men inside) and they were taken in again, this time fully packed with four men plus the couple. In spite of everyone being aware that the couple wanted to be brought to a railway station, they even passed one while heavily discussing that they never had hurt the couple, wondering why they were scared all the time. This on-and-off repeated a few times, but the tension went past me all the time. Maybe the situation was too artificial for me to get involved.
An important topic in this movie was the position of women. We saw in the beginning that the woman-half of the runaway couple ignored direct questions when asked by the men in the van, but replied via the man who accompanied her. Also in the beginning the couple said that they were friends, but later on changed their story and maintained they were man and wife. It was a wise move, given the recent (2 years ago?) stories of what can happen to women in India who are not in "proper" company (husband, father or brother). In the incident that was covered by our newspapers, some men decided that a woman without proper company was immoral and hence deemed a proper target for a mini-gang-rape. It was clear from the media that this was not a rare incident, but similar things happen all the time and the rapists are seldom punished. Returning to the film at hand: all this will be obvious to the people living in that country, considerably adding to the "horror" feeling, something that is less obvious to us here in a Western country.
Finally, the Tiger Competition jury awarded this movie a first prize. As usual, as a professional jury they found very different from the audience (=people like me), as this movie ranked at a lowly 136th place for the audience award. This demonstrates, again and again, the large gap that exists between professional viewers versus the public, both groups watching movies with different eyes and finding other aspects important.
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