Thursday, April 12, 2012


My reflections on the movie kurmavatara directed by Girish Kasarahalli based on the story written by kum. vee. and produced by Basant Kumar Patil.

An Indian mythology has it that in a  fierce churning with the mountain in the sea by the gods and demons for the nectar, the earth started sinking and the tortoise ( kurma ) incarnation of Lord held the earth on its back so that churning could continue and eventually the Good got the nectar ( Bhagavata ). In the movie kurmavatara, a child gets a live tortoise from a shop as a toy to play with and in a crisis  where his dad leaves the house ( on an evil ground ), the child neglects the animal leaving it behind with no feed for it. In fact, there is hardly any real fight between the good and evil, it is  evil reigning all around. Even the slightest good noticed is soon traded upon for self gain and profit including Mahatma Gandhi. A situation all too familiar today.  Only once the tortoise raises its neck long and up ( not its proud and acclaimed back in support ) but of no avail. A brilliant story is made into a brilliant movie.

The movie has a veneer of mirth with a leaking pathos all through the film. See these two incidence as an example for this tragico-comedy: The Director of teleserial on Mahatma Gandhi wants the actor Gandhi to cry on hearing the suggestion to divide India for Pakistan, rather than putting a poker face as he does and to this the Director suggest that the actor should recollect his sorrow after the death of his wife. The actor's son whispers that he did not cry after the death of his wife and in fact there is no human emotions in him. In another instance, a popular actor in a commercial cinema is hired to play the role of Godse, Gandhi's assassin, to increase the TRP ratings for the Serial when a Muslim was chosen  for that role earlier  had to be abandoned owing to  threat by a militant group against the choice of the Muslim actor.

The actors chosen are mostly from the Television Serials and one from the commercial movie, the veteran Jayanthi. As such they are all typecast and the people are attuned to see typical gestures from them. Yet, it stands to the enormous credit of the Director Girish Kasaravalli to get a totally different and most appropriate performance from all of them. In particular, the acting of Gandhi, director of the teleserial , son, and the marvel of an actress Jayanthi as Kasturi Ba stand out with their brilliant acting. 

Kurmavatara is a serious movie, no song and dance or balancing with good and bad "as it is in reality you see" or as in commercial movie where a bad officer/police is invariably balanced with a good officer! Girish is uncompromising, not interested in mollifying and palliatives for their own sake, call spade a spade and be done with it as that is all to it in the life around now. It is a celluloid masterpiece, a cinematic marvel, pregnant with myriad layers of meaning parading in symphony.

I watched the movie fully engaged in the enjoyment of the juxtaposition of the sublime and ridicule so well etched  and yet, somewhere in the middle, a gnawing distress that lurked which gradually grown into a disturbing distress in the end that could  easily be misconstrued as a drag or bore which, I discovered soon is a plain self protection device! For, as I was returning after the movie, on the way, a sudden insight struck me that made me race through in memory all the moments of the movie, making the life of present day come alive in such brilliance. It has been my experience often that any great movie's impact is more after you return to life from the movie than while watching the movie!

It is a gem of a movie worth watching all the way. We encounter a Director in Girish Kasaravalli whose stature is that of Satyajit Ray. 

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