Director: Sanalkumar Sasidharan
Producer: Dileep Viswanath
Production Co: Kazhcha Film Forum
Music Director: Basil Joseph
Cast: Prakash Bare, Bikramjit Gupta, Krishnan Balakrishnan, Meena Kandasamy, Chala Chari, Tarique Hameed, Venkitesh Ramakrishnan, Swami Samvidanand, Sonia Kohli, Thanima Manoj, Blessy Silvaster
Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s ‘Oraalpokkam’ is an introspective expedition on which a man embarks, en route which he frenziedly probes into questions on life, nature and existence. Peripherally while it comes across as a fretful man’s frantic search for a missing partner, it is more of the man’s journey into himself, as he unpeels layer after layer off his troubled self, and tries to unmask the stranger who has been living inside for long.
Mahendran (Prakash Bare) finds himself on greasy ground, when his live-in partner Maya (Meena Kandasamy) walks out of his flat and life, leaving him alone with a truck load of memories that pay him a visit off and on. Unable to find concord in a few subsequent relationships, Mahi drowns himself in liquor, when one night he is woken up from his delirium by a telephone call from Maya, who claims to be in Kedarnath.
And on the next morning in June 2013, Mahi wakes up to the news of the torrential floods having washed away thousands of men and women at Kedarnath, with several hundreds more having gone missing. Unable to place a call to Maya’s mobile phone, a highly perturbed Mahi heads over from Kerala to Uttarakhand, hoping to find out what has happened to her.
The elaborate plotting in ‘Oraalpokkam’ intertwines well-defined characters, most of whom make only a fleeting appearance in the film. They range from the man who vigorously scribbles anti-dam slogans on the walls of what were once his school to the faceless Malayali voice who has taken up a new job at the power plant. The extensive variety of circumstances that this voyage of self-discovery explores, brings to the narrative an acumen in utterly unforeseen ways.
Murmuring just beneath the surface are the whispers that aim at the political intransigence that has driven the mountains of Uttarakhand into a state of turbulence; at the sickening unfairness that is meted out to the exceedingly volatile environment under the garb of development. As much as it remains an appalling portrait of the horrific state of affairs at the foot hills of the magnificent Himalayas, here is an indisputable concern that should fine a resonance everywhere.
The intermittent phases of shock and sorrow that Mahi passes through, lend a prismatic import to the seemingly unadorned premises from which they are drawn. Going beyond the elementary considerations, the film never lets us get too close to it or the mystery that it keeps wrapped within, as illusory as the Maya that forever keeps eluding us.
The calamity struck topography of Kedarnath stands as a valid substantiation of a much crucial concurrence that once existed between man and nature, and which had eventually been ripped off as progress and expansion waded in, spreading their avaricious hands all over, and unsettling the tantalizing equilibrium that in the past held it all together as a picturesque piece.
As the jeep wallops along the craggy Uttarakhand terrain, Mahendran’s fellow passenger, asks him where he is slated for. Mahi dismissively asserts that he doesn’t know, and is taken aback when he is composedly informed that it couldn’t be the answer, as he believes it to be. Not knowing could only provide a momentary respite, the man continues, and avers that instead it presents the most perennial of questions before humankind.
Mahi’s quest leads him on to many an acquaintance and he is flanked by a Sadhu at the confluence of the Mandakini and the Son Ganga rivers. Pointing to the noticeably dissimilar waters that flow along the two rivers, the man clad in saffron talks of how they become indistinguishable when they are flooded, bearing muddy waters that look evenly brown. Dispelling the human notions of religion, caste and creed in a sturdy stroke down the rapid flowing rivers, he proclaims that it is impossible to mark one out using one of these when catastrophe strikes. At times, even gender turns out to be ineffective.
‘Oraalpokkam’ could very well boast of its cast that renders solid performances, which imbue their characters with the right amount of intensity and intricacy. While Prakash Bare is exceptionally good as the man who digs painfully deep into his psyche, Meena Kandasamy ensures that the notes that she delivers are flawless.
Nature in all its grandeur, elegantly blends into the account as Mahi goes on a rutted ride along the furrowed mountain roads of Uttarakhand with the river Ganges raging along in all might down below. The textured frames that cinematographer Indrajith comes up with, are certainly not easy on your eyes, as they break your spine, throwing you about with their jagged jolts and jerks.
The mastery of tone that Sanal Kumar Sasidharan exhibits in ‘Oraalpokkam’ makes it a transfixing ensemble piece of astounding depth. At times delightfully ambiguous and unequivocally insightful at others, ‘Oraalpokkam’ is cinema at its calamitous best.
3 out of 5 (Good)