It's an interesting game. It offers you the chance to be a king or a thief at the pick of a chit, depending on how lucky or doomed you are. You must have played and enjoyed it, but you may have never imagined it turning fatal on you. Writer Unni R thought of it a few years ago and wrote Ozhivu divasathe Kali, a short story. After years, Sanal Kumar Sasidharan rewrote it on screen keeping the same title and offering more possibilities of reading and re-reading.
The film sans star cast was in news prior to hitting screens for many reasons including the Kerala state award for best film and lack of a written script. Realistic in genre, the film is a loud political statement said in a subtle, yet enjoyable tone.
Five men, a slice of the Kerala middle class, set off to celebrate a holiday coinciding with the vote counting of a bypoll to the Kerala assembly. Their day turns out to be one which is drenched in alcohol and rain, and filled with macho fun, arguments, fight and a deadly game.
In a series of casual situations, the film discusses several issues such as male dominance, corruption and societal hypocrisy. But the dominant narrative is that of caste, something which our mainstream cinema often tends to downplay. The brilliance of the film lies in the fact that it does not go for sloganeering as many of the so-called political dramas do. The film from an outsider's point of view, or that of a critical insider's, depicts how caste hierarchy plays out its role in the daily life of Malayali men, and how those in the lower rungs of society fall prey seemingly innocuous harassment.
The film's strength is in the flow of the narrative. It proceeds through real life situations, most of them funny, played by a bunch of newcomers. Having shot without a formal script, the film offers the actors plenty of freedom to improvise, which they seem to have made use of. However, at times scenes turn out to be cacophonic, marring the flow of the narrative.
The repeated use of some mute shots, at places of transitions, could have been trimmed. The shots, apparently aimed at symbolising the pause ahead of a catastrophe or the calm surface of the human mind which may turn explosive anytime, looked like an age-old and avoidable device. The sounds at the background outweigh the dialogues sometimes and disturb the viewer.
The scene where Dasan, who is often teased by his friends as black, recites the poem - "When I'm born I'm black" - is a key to understanding the film. But the poem gets drowned by surrounding voices. The director's choice may have been deliberate, but the scene's life was lost in the clamour.
All the actors - Nisthar Sait (Dharman), Baiju Netto (Dasan), Girish Nair (Thirumeni), Pradeep Kumar (Vinayan), Reju Pillai (Narayanan), Arun Nair (Ashokan) and Sridhar P.U. (Ganeshan) – essay their roles in an equally appreciable manner. The characters represent several 'typical' individuals in society.
Abhija Sivakala, the lone actor with some experience on screen among the cast, plays Geetha, a poor woman who survives the men's lewd attempts.
With a number of hand-held shots, use of natural light and unusual frames, Indrajith, the cinematographer, gives the film the tone and hue of a documentary which is something the theme calls for. Appu Bhattathiri, as editor, deserves the credit for keeping the pace of the movie.
The minimal music by Basil Joseph sets the mood right. The brilliant use of strings in the climax is one such instance.
Ozhivu Divasathe Kali must be watched as a political movie, but without any prejudice. It's a deliberate take on hypocrisies in the society, an entertaining trial in which you would find yourself either in the spot of the victim or the culprit.
Onmanorama Rating: 3/5