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Things fall apart

Ramachandra's debut feature Suddha is made on a modest budget and is an incisive look at disintegrating family values



QUITE A FEAT Suddha was made on a budget of less than Rs. 1.5 lakh

Just when you thought making a film would cost obscene sums of money, Mumbai-based Ramachandra P.N. has made a film for less than Rs. 1.5 lakh. His first feature-length film, Suddha (The Cleansing Rites), was shot on digital format. Based on Bojja, a Tulu play by Narayana Nandalike, Suddha narrates the tale of a disintegrating family in a village in coastal Karnataka.

The mother of the family dies and the surviving members of the family (belonging to three generations — father, children and grandchildren) are organising the final rites. The mother was a popular figure in the community. This is a problem, as no less than 1,000 people are expected to attend and the funds required to organise the function are beyond the family's present means.

As the story unfolds, the web of relationships unravels and exposes the fragility of bonds within the family. The younger son has reluctantly come from Mumbai with his wife, to pay an obligatory visit to the father. The elder son, a widower, is bitter that he has to shoulder the responsibilities, which have been unfairly thrust on him. His affair with a woman from a lower caste is a matter of shame and resentment for his young son, who does not hesitate to burn down the woman's house.

The father is a lonely figure — sick, depressed and unable to control the goings on. All he can do is offer the last preserved items of jewellery, including his earrings, to fund the function. Added to this is the presence of his widowed daughter and college-going granddaughter. The death of the father towards the end is another blow to the family.

The allure of the 105-minute Tulu film is mainly due to its impressive technical accomplishments. Camerawork by Sameer Mahajan uses light and shade superbly and captures the mood and feel of the story. The interiors of the typical rural house — with peeling walls and old-world appendages — which stand as mute witness of the breaking family have been shot with care and sensitivity. The film, shot entirely in Moodbidri, also scores in the sound and editing departments. There are no songs or background music but the natural sounds and long silences enhance the melancholic tone.

The film is, however, not without its flaws. Its leisurely pace gives it the look and feel of the so-called art film which might not find favour with today's audience. The FTII-trained filmmaker though, takes the criticism in his stride. "Suddha does not have the elements often used in mainstream cinema that would mesmerise the audience's mind, strangle them and hold them captive."

Ramachandra, who arranged a special screening in Moodbidri, says: "The audience in Moodbidri watched the film without any pre-conceived notions or prejudices. They accepted it for what it is. I was thrilled to find that contrary to what some people had to say after watching the trials in Mumbai, that there was a receptive village audience for my film."

Suddha is being screened today at 6.30 p.m. at CFD, Sona Towers. For details, contact Baburaj of Collective Chaos on 98443-58234.

ATHREYA

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