Isn’t it ironical that as children we just can’t wait to grow-up, become adults and start doing a lot of things which are forbidden or out of reach for kids, but the moment we actually grow-up, we just wish the very opposite? Unless we have had a difficult childhood don’t we generally get nostalgic when we think of our days spent while in school, when life was a lot more simpler, when probably the only pressure that was upon our shoulders was to ace our exams? Time and again I am reminded of my childhood days, of a period when I was probably the most happiest in life. Nowadays thanks to Social Media tools like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp a lot of us are back in touch with our old friend’s right? Of late a lot of Marathi films have been coming out with children at the focus of it, talking of themes like teenage angst/romance and/or nostalgia etc.
In fact with so many such films coming out I was just hoping that Avinash Arun’s ‘Killa’ would not turn out to be another Shaala, Balak Palak or Timepass and have something novel about it. What gave me the reassurance was that the film had won the prestigious Crystal Bear for best film in the Generation K-Plus section at Berlinale (2014). Hence Killa and Court (Chaitanya Tamhane’s Marathi film, a darling of the festival circuit) were among my list of films to watch out for during Mumbai Film Festival 2014. At the very surface Killa (Fort) is a very simple tale and devoid of any complexity. Quite a bit of the film is even supposed to be a throwback of sorts to the childhood memories of director Avinash Arun who makes his debut with Killa. But sometimes what we really need to look out for are such simple tales, told straight from the heart and which go on to capture our hearts as well. That’s why Killa works and works quite well at that.
11 year old Chinmay or Chinu (Archit Deodhar) as he’s fondly referred to by his mother (Amruta Subhash) has just recently lost his father. To add to the misery he is forced to move out of his hometown Pune, as his mother, a Government employee gets a transfer to a small coastal town in the Konkan region. Chinu is disappointed to leave behind the comfort of a school, a city and friends who have been an integral part of his life so far, but he has no other choice and hence grudgingly goes on with his mother to the new place. Life in the small town is quite different from what he is used to in Pune. He joins a local school but somehow cannot really adjust to the new surroundings. Initially Chinu maintains a distance from his classmates and is seen to be a strong headed loner who is quite smart as well. But it isn’t long before he actually goes on to get close to Yuvraj (Gaurish Gawde), a rich lad and the self-proclaimed leader of the pack, Bandya (Parth Bhalerao, earlier seen in Bhootnath Returns), an orphan and the naughtiest of the lot and Omkar (Atharva Upasni).
Soon Chinu begins to get comfortable with his gang of friends, as they go about exploring the countryside on their bicycles, enjoying swimming sessions and giving each other good company. But life cannot be all that easy always and Chinu’s mother unfortunately gets into a tough situation at work when she falls prey to the local corrupt ways endangering her own job in the process, unknowingly. Soon thereafter a defining moment approaches the lives of Chinu and his mother, at a time when they were least expecting it. Killa is a true coming of age film and a lot of people I am sure will identify not just with the proceedings but also with the way the film ends. There are lots of standout moments in the film, like the entire portion when Chinu and his friends wander to the fort & what happens thereafter, when Chinu expresses his displeasure at the food served at the house of his mother’s colleague, or when he lovingly asks his mother if she can prevent an impending transfer of job.
There’s a fleeting moment in the film when Chinu and the gang are seen looking at a girl in their class with some fondness and I was telling myself-there we go the Shala way :), luckily it remains a fleeting moment and that angle is not explored. For quite some time into the film I didn’t quite realise that it’s a tale set in the mid 90’s, only to realize that later with subtle hints. Like Bandya is seen to be a big fan of the popular Doordarshan serial ‘Chandrakanta’, also look closer and you will see no use of mobile phones, in fact Chinu’s mother actually goes across to a neighbors place to make STD calls to Pune. But it’s nice to see that the period reference is very subtle and not in the face, hence not distracting at all. It also helps that the locations chosen also aid in the same, hence making the look and feel quite realistic overall.
Writers Tushar Paranjape and Upendra Sidhaye need to be commended for weaving in a tale that’s simple, engrossing and impactful in a definite manner. Avinash Arun’s cinematography captures the beautiful locales of the Konkan region in all its grandeur, but making sure that the visuals does not overpower the film’s narrative. The film’s music scored by Naren Chandavarkar and Benedict Taylor is quite effective and suits the mood of the film admirably. One of the major reasons which aids in making the film enjoyable is the casting choices. The kids are all quite natural, Parth Bhalerao who was so admired in Bhootnath Returns, does well here as well- a definite talent to watch out for. Archit Deodhar pulls off the slightly complex character of Chinmay with great conviction. Amruta Subhash is more than a perfect fit as a single mother and brings out the struggle she faces at home with her son, as well as that at work with a lot of grace and perfection.
Ultimately Killa is a major triumph for Avinash Arun and his team in every sense. Here is a film which tells us that one can succeed with a simple tale as well, as long as it’s honest and heart-warming. Go watch the film when it releases later this year.
Note-After an impressive festival run Killa has recently won 2 National Awards (62nd National Film Awards), including Best Marathi Film. It is expected to be released by Zee/EsselVision Productions on 26th June, 2015.