Director Avinash Arun has created a formidable and faithful film; Killa ventures to tell its story truthfully, and promises to render its craft respectfully. Selected for the 64th Berlin International Film Festival, this Crystal Bear winner deftly blends realism with surrealistic strokes. Dealing with his father’s recent demise and his mother’s transfer to a small town, this coming-of-age story of an 11 year old boy Chinmay (Archit Deodhar) shows a keen understanding of human nature and an authentic portrayal of the Konkan setting.
Killa showcases once again that the heart of any film lies in its script. It is the word on the page that gives flight to the cinematic vision. The story has the perfect arc of a film script with its defined moments of conflict, climax and resolution. Chinmay goes through the trajectory of anxiety, hope, disillusionment and realization. However, Arun uses this primal story to tell another story- of the rustic lives on the Konkan coast. The screenplay therefore focuses on capturing realistic glimpses of daily life. For instance, writing postcards, using the landline at the neigbour’s house, the corrupt bureaucracy at the local government office and the euphoria of possessing a bicycle are physical and psychological experiences true to its space and characters.
The dialogues too are non-intrusive and have a very uncontrived, spontaneous quality about them. Even an emotionally charged moment between the mother and son atop the lighthouse when they are reminiscing about the father; the dialogues are kept to a matter-of- fact obvious ground. At the same time, there is simple but powerful symbolism created when Chinmay recites the Marathi poem about a sailor’s struggle at sea; the camera focuses on the mother’s face and the parallel communicates the essence of her being.
The cinematography and editing forms the two cornerstones of this aesthetically evolved cinematic narrative. The film is introduced to the audience through the camera zooming in i.e. literally entering into the leafy path headed towards the sea. It is symbolic of entering the tale of Chinmay and therefore, when the story comes to an end, the camera gradually pulls out of different frames and out of every character’s life. It is films like these that will make the audience attuned to film vocabulary. By giving them anything less, we do them gross injustice. This camera movement is extremely reminiscent of Satyajit Ray’s Charulata and perhaps not surprising of an FTII alumnus.
The camera takes the lead in highlighting the significant shift in the character of Chinmay from boyhood into adulthood. For instance, the scene where Chinmay walks past the beach, the camera pans from his playful classmates to the fishermen preparing for their fishing expedition and this succinctly captures Chinmay’s maturity and growth. He chooses to take the ride with the fisherman, sail far into the sea rather than stay safe on the shore. Instead of witnessing his friends catch crabs from under the rocks, Chinmay now catches fish from the sea and has the first bite of life’s endeavor. Towards the end, when Chinmay takes the plunge into the bath to swim with his friends, the treatment once again renders it extremely symbolic.
The film is filled with such metaphors and turn into motifs through its recurrent references. The fort literally the killa, is the most powerful of it all. It represents the labyrinth of experiences, memories and relationships that Chinmay has and marks a clear emotional shift in his life. It acts as a metaphorical tunnel of revelation for him. The subtlety with which these metaphors have been used enhances its beauty. The simple instance of Chinmay protecting the dog from his mischievous friend Bandya (Parth Bhalerao) effectively communicates the detailing of each character that has gone into making them stand out as unique. Similarly, the tilak and Superman/Spiderman t-shirts that Yuvraj (Gaurish Gawade) wears or the black cloth bag that Bandya uses as a makeshift schoolbag are consciously chosen to represent the class differences and its dynamics between young school boys.
Sound too has been employed strategically to elicit emotional connect from the audience. For instance, the sound of the motor in the fisherman’s boat, which is juxtaposed with the complete silence and stillness in the middle of the sea works wonderfully in portraying Chinmay’s internal introspection. His return to his mother that night creates a universally identifiable moment of solace and security of the home. These technical and directorial choices have been well supported by the sincere and powerful acting essayed by the actors specially the young school boys. Even the gait and small gestures of the actors have been minutely worked upon.
Just as the intentional designing of a fort done to fulfill strategic functions, Killa has a well-scripted layout to create competent cinema.