Kallanottam (The False Eye)
Writer/Director: Rahul Riji Nair
Stars: Vinita Koshy, Vasudev, Suryadev, P J Unnikrishnan...
Running Time: 1h 12m
If the unending penchant to redefine the ever-evolving visual grammar of cinema is a key trait of indie films, Rahul Riji Nair's latest work Kallanottam(The false eye) simply excels in it. Its unconventional way of story-telling, made possible with an innovative cinematography, makes it an engaging watch even as unfolding a simple but relevant plot.
The film, which begins as an intriguing children's tale, changes track at some point and shifts its focus to the adults' world and their problems, nevertheless without losing the grip on the narrative.
Vincent (Vasudev Sajeesh Marar), a young boy steals a surveillance camera kept in a local store. Joined by his peers, Kishore (Suryadev Sajeesh Marar) and Rosy (Ansu Maria), he sets out to make a film. The film progresses through the film within it wherein Kishore plays the self-declared hero with a goggles and romances the heroine, played by Rosy. Vincent's directorial dilemmas, clashes between the 'lead actors' and the hero's chauvinistic attitude direct Kalla Nottam to the level of a satiric meta-cinema, though it's not going to be the case. The plot takes a turn as both Kishore and Rosy exit the frame and Vincent becomes alone, burdened with the stolen camera and heaviness of an unfulfilled dream. A group of youngmen enter the scene and all the innocence that played out on the screen until then just stops. But the film continues.
The camera that Vincent steals is a GoPro Cam usually used by bike riders for travel vlogging. Kallanottam was shot entirely on a GoPro camera and the result is a series of unusual shots that do not stick to the typical rules of cinematography. Tobin Thomas has done a brilliant job as the director of photography with the perfect planning and execution of the shots. The camera is indeed a character of the movie. Editor Appu N Bhattathiri apparently helped the director a lot to develop a visual language the latter envisaged.
Rahul's attempt to tell a story that evokes a mixture of emotions with at least three layers of drama in it has worked out undoubtedly, even though some of its themes may provoke a debate. For those looking through the thick glasses of political correctness, the portrayal of the central female character (Neenu played by Vineetha Koshy) and the kind of relationship discussed may look problematic.
The film scores well on the performance side. The three child artistes have done an excellent job. Suryadev's transition from an irritant boy to a gloomy child deserves special mention. Vinitha Koshy, the only star face among the cast, has done a matured performance as the girl in trouble.
The reasonable amount of situational comedy makes the film even more entertaining until that uneasy climax.
(The film was premiered in the New York Indian Film Festival 2020 recently)