Report Wire - Prappeda is an audacious Malayalam sci-fi anti-war movie

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Prappeda is an audacious Malayalam sci-fi anti-war movie

5 min read

The world appears to go by whereas a conflict carries on in Europe. Closer dwelling, hardened identification politics is pitting human towards human whereas some mainstream Hindi movies are distorting historical past. Amid such up to date history-writing, Krishnendu Kalesh’s Malayalam debut function Prappeda (Hawk’s Muffin), critiquing patriarchy, greed, capitalism, and eco-fascism, is extra a necessity than an exception.

Along with actor Nithin George (who arrived with Tovino Thomas-starrer Luca, 2019, and has was an indie common, with movies like Paka and Pada), Kalesh brings to his function debut the drift of his black-and-white quick movie Karinchathan (Bete Noir, 2017) — his riposte to the 2015 Charlie Hebdo terrorist taking pictures — a powerful darkish satire about two males on an task to kill the invincible Satan.

It’s troublesome to bracket the well-curated Prappeda right into a style. Imagine if the Kochi-Muziris Biennale was given a cinematic lease of life, this movie is that. Human and nature are in semblance, the greens, browns, and nude shades of the clothes is an extension of the moss and the tree roots on the partitions, within the open air, and the beige pores and skin tone matches the earth. It’s fairly like Don Palathara’s Santhoshathinte Onnam Rahasyam/Joyful Mystery (Best Sync Sound at Kerala state awards final yr), the place the greens of the protagonists’ apparel match the character exterior of their automotive, inside which the movie unfolds.

A nonetheless from Prappeda.

Shot in 18 days, with about 20 individuals, in an property in Kottayam district, Prappeda was submitted to the NFDC work-in-progress lab in 2020. This yr, it premiered at International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) within the Bright Future class and at International Film Festival Kerala, and, final month, picked up the Special Award for Promising Debut in Direction on the 52nd Kerala State Film Awards. “As a film festival based in the Netherlands presenting Indian cinema, we need to be aware and very careful about issues like exoticism, hegemony, and power relations, but having said that, not everything is about cultural representation. India is so many different, contradictory things at once, far too complex to reduce it to a single cliché image. Like every year, like (PS Vinothraj’s IFFR Tiger Award winner) Pebbles/Koozhangal, the films in this year’s (IFFR) programme were not your typical festival movies,” says Germany-based Stefan Borsos, the programmer for South Asia at IFFR.

Prappeda begins with a hawk (navy airplane) punching out its “muffin” (an enormous pile of junk) that unleashes a “broccoli” (nuclear mushroom-cloud) in air, and razes life (suppose A-bombs from Hiroshima-Nagasaki). Chinook helicopters (recall Vietnam and Iraq wars) patrol the skies. The navy pilot has been ordered to enter hiding. In a dystopian, post-apocalyptic future, within the coronary heart of an Amazonian jungle in Kerala, is ensconced a world with its personal guidelines, like Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Churuli, or a Tarkovskian “Zone”, the place stands a home, belonging to the lifeless pilot’s progeny.

His grandson’s granddaughter Ruby (Ketaki Narayan), the youngest rent for the place and inheritor of the empire, her mute-paralysed mom (Neena Kurup), Xavier (Jayanarayan Thulasidas, additionally the movie’s producer), an insomniac navy renegade employed to protect the place/individuals, who’s an outcast to maintain different outcasts/trespassers out. There can also be a trickster priest who dilutes the water tank, poisons the thoughts, controls the beings (places Xavier to short-term sleep), and in comes one other man, allegedly the lifeless pilot’s descendant from one other line.

Ketaki Narayan and Rajesh Madhavan in Prappeda.

A graphic designer by coaching, Kalesh brings in his myriad pursuits to this gestalt — there’s artwork, busts/sculptures, nonetheless life coming to life, there’s theatre, dialogue-less appearing and pantomime, commercial collages, industrial sound (designed by Nithin Lukose, Paka director). Freshly imagined, the sci-fi fantasy drama is a technological marvel, the cinematography, and Thoufeek Hussain’s animation and VFX (composed of 650 pictures) soar.

The movie’s replete with intertextuality. Kalesh dutifully pays credit score to 4 masters firstly, which sadly colors our viewing. There can also be a worship image that appears just like the faun from Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) however refers back to the Swedish image from Midsommar (2019), and there are some apparent references to “elements from The Shape of Water (2017)”.

The setting is a Foucauldian heterotopia, the place Ruby’s coming of age takes place in an attic. It’s her secluded house the place she hides an alien being (Rajesh Madhavan), whom she met in the future. Ruby, who’s been confused about her emotional and bodily wants, grows keen on him; he offers her a toy that brings her an unknown pleasure. An emblem of each peace, maybe, of another religion, for it resembles a mini prayer wheel, signalling that she alone can impact change, and pleasure, for it vibrates, and units Ruby’s static-until-now life, and life’s function, in movement.

Prappeda is helmed by Krishnendu Kalesh.

Here is a turtle (added to the movie on the very finish, on the edit desk), an inauspicious creature that’s lived for 200-300 years and carries historical past, having seen the World War II; there are writer-revolutionary Vaikom Muhammad Basheer’s anti-war meditations. Kalesh factors at how “wars are a never-ending, never-resolved human enterprise.” The pandemic has solely expedited ethnocentrism, exclusionism, and expansionism. By the time the digital camera pulls off, the waterfall sound offers approach to industrial sounds, excavations are taking place someplace.

Peace arrives at a private price, Ruby has to relinquish all that’s hers: her love, emotions, proper/dwelling/land, a disputed all-out masculine zone, the place ladies are mute. Washed ashore, she’s a refugee and a prappeda/feminine pigeon who brokers peace in a faraway land, the place, in a climactic fall, she delivers mid-air (suspended like a “Make Love, Not War” peace image from the Vietnam War) — a Tarkovskian transcendence — is she ringing in life and hope or future destruction?

A nonetheless from Prappeda.

The movie unveils itself in layers, which reveal themselves on a number of viewings, which a one-time theatre present could not afford, however OTTs do. Kalesh makes use of narrative to undo the narrative. In Prappeda, Kalesh items collectively too many threads, someplace the particularities take priority over the diegesis — it’s summary however temporally linear. It’s an “interesting film”, which, to cite Wong Kar-wai, is “something that you can have an aftertaste. Sometimes, when you look at the film, you might not get it the first time, but somehow it lingers.” Prappeda, a hybrid movie, leaves you with questions.