Last saturday I got an opportunity to watch a critically acclaimed Tulu movie ‘Suddha’ (It means ‘cleansing rites’ in Tulu) directed by Ramchandra PN, in a special screening in the city. I heard about this movie a year back when it recieved the best Film award in the Indian Competition Section at the Osian’s Cinefan Festival of Asian Films held in New Delhi in 2006. It is noteworthy to know that that competition had also featured the veteran film maker Girish Kasaravalli’s film ‘Naayi Neralu’.
I would like to say few points about Tulu movies. The production of Tulu movies started some 35 years back and the number of movies made are very few. There were very good responses to the initial films. Because of the language barrier, film making in this area could not be developed in to a full fledged industry. Most of the Tulu movies simply copied the formulas of Kannada films. The producers were not confident of getting their money back from their films. Tulu is spoken by the people in and around Mangalore and the market for films in this language is very limited.
This movie is shot in a digital 3 CCD camera and has been filmed without any use of artificial lights. ‘Sudhda’ is the story of a rural family set in South Canara, which sees the conflict of relationship and responsibilities in a society which is on the verge of shedding the feudal system.
‘Gutthuda ill’ (Landlord’s house) used to be a very powerful house in the village with acres of land, many of servants and an authority to rule the village. The landlord has two sons. One works in the fields and the other lives in Bombay. When mother dies, her son who is in Bombay returns home. When he arrives with his wife, he slowly witnesses the hollowness of the power that his house used to enjoy once. Most of the land they owned had gone into the hands of the lower caste people who once used to work in the landlord’s field. They were given land by the government policy to end feudal sysytem. Because of this, the financial state of the house has declined drastically making it difficult even to earn their daily bread. The elder son is unhappy with his son who is a college drop-out and there is always a tension between them. The Bombay returned man is eager to finish the cleansing rites and push off to Bombay. As the film moves, we find that the elder son has an illegitimate relation with a lower caste woman, which is the reason why his son always has heated arguments with that family.As the day of the holy ritual arrives, these two brothers realize that they don’t have enough money for the cleansing rites. The elder son asks for his brother’s help and learns he also doen’t have a single penny. The landlord offers to sell his wife’s golden jewellary. Which hits the egos of two sons who later readily give their golden jewelleries. But suddenly they think that by selling a peice of their land they can get over with all their financial problems and they decide to do so.
In the whole process, we see the feudal system dying. The main character of landlord is the personification of old customs. He is still being revered as the landlord, even though he has lost all his powers on the people. System might have changed, but the people are not accepting the facts. When they realize the changes, it hurts them and leaves them with only one option of abandoning the village. The two sons, the grand son and the grand daughter of the landlord are all fed up with the the village life. Bombay seems as a ray of hope for all of them.
There are very special techniques used in this movie which are path-breaking as far as this region’s cinema is concerned. The film uses the chirping of birds, flowing water and folklore-like songs extensively as its outdoor sound and ticking sound of clock for the indoor sound. The ticking sound of clock and a frequent presence of radio songs, successfully create a calm village house environment. The cinematography, by depicting the mud walls, wooden carvings of windows and doors and the lush greenery of the village helps to take this film to a next level. The way the DoP has used natural lights and reflectors is very brilliant. The dark rooms of old house looks very realistic; so does the green fields. Editing of the film should be mentioned here. The beautiful way of overlapping the sound of previous scene with the next scene is adopted through out the film. All the actors have given decent performances. There are some scenes where you may feel that dialogue delivery is more like a stage performance. But at some points the actors have done a commendable job.
Having won the best film award in an international platform, this movie gives an inspiration to all the independent film makers of the region to make good cinema. This movie once again shows that there is scope for honest storytelling. The limitation of technology should never stop a film maker from making his films.