The makers of Sexy Durga, aka S Durga, may be true fighters who would not bow down to the powers that be. However, the lady with a goddess' name and an otherwise enviable epithet attached to her moniker is an antithesis of sorts – she is helplessness personified.
Sanalkumar Sasidharan's latest film, an award winner abroad and the center of simmering controversies back home, is the disturbing narrative of a harrowing night journey by a couple whose only revealed identity is their names that declare religion and dialects that proclaim region.
Durga and Kabeer, married or unmarried, are out on the street, wandering in the dead of the night. Their failed attempts to go hitchhiking comes to an abrupt end once and for all when an Omni van stops by them. The strangely lit-up vehicle, the people inside it and the couples' moments in and out of it make for the rest of the narrative.
Parallelly, we have the strange festivities of a temple, wherein piety and pain reign over one another through rituals that involve unbearable and unbelievable body piercing. The rituals, apparently a symbolic human sacrifice, are performed to satisfy the goddess even as her namesake suffers unimaginable horrors, just a few miles away perhaps.
The two shades of life are portrayed with all the details and the characters represent a society that is plagued by bad policing and moral policing – both stemming from deep-rooted patriarchy.
Yet, the film is neither preachy nor propagandist but a brilliant portrayal of an unfortunate social condition and an exploration of the visual language.
The lengthy, yet moving shots, darkness with no dearth and lights in psychedelic shades sync well with the narrative.
The film marks the gradual growth of Sanalkumar as a man of craft, as he deftly dons the roles of both director and editor.
Rajshri Deshpande as Durga and Kannan Nair as Kabir perform realistically, making the audience empathize with their helplessness. Special mention due to the all the supporting actors who do an equally important job, taking maximum advantage of a written script’s absence. Their indulgence in expletives, that often refuse to die down as bleep censors, do justice to the murky situation they are in.
Adding to it is the noisy music that silence Durga and her hapless companion. Durga's tale plays out like a cruel cat and mouse game driven by a smell of fear. But is there an end in sight? Those who are out on the streets and the ones in the ivory towers of power, who clamor to save the honor of their goddess, can answer perhaps.