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Kaul: A Calling review – Takes unconventionalism to another level

The film directed by Aadish Keluskar is a daring experimental saga.

Keyur Seta

Film: Kaul: A Calling (Marathi) (U)
Rating: 3/5

The film's poster says, ‘Experience is the new entertainment.’ It is an honest description by the makers. Kaul: A Calling is nothing but an experience. However, to say that it is an unconventional experience would be an understatement. It takes unconventionalism to another level. It has ‘experimental cinema’ written in every frame.

Kaul is about the experience of a school teacher (Rohit Kokate). Not much is known about him apart from the fact that he is married to a homely girl (Saudamini Tikle). Something leads him to kill a stranger. He then migrates to a coastal village in Maharashtra and starts teaching at a school. 

Kokate's character leads a routine life in the village until he experiences something out of the ordinary, inexplicable. It worsens his mental state. He visits a psychiatrist to get to the bottom of the mystery. However, this does little to improve his situation. In the mean time, he has a fallout with his wife owing to his behaviour. He then gets another chance to understand himself and the world. Will this be of any help?

The narrative is nowhere near as simple and straightforward as the synopsis above. The writing and direction use ways to define the character and the storyline in a manner that is not accessible to the ordinary cine-goer. The most interesting feature is that the actors’ faces are hardly seen when they are speaking. Most times, they have their backs to the camera. At times, their voices are heard in the background while the camera focuses on random things in the interior or outside.

Scenes where nothing much is happening are kept lengthy. After a while, you realize that this has been done deliberately as it goes with the mood of the flick. Some conversations and the behaviour of some characters appear too vague. A number of scenes are cut abruptly, again intentionally. Despite the weird manner of narration and presentation, the film keeps you glued and, importantly, interested, provided you have the patience.

There is skilful use of diverse types of background tunes catering to different situations. The scene in which the protagonist experiences a life-changing situation is enhanced only because of the sound. It just shakes you up! Not surprisingly, the camerawork is out of the ordinary. It requires great skill to capture such unconventional scenes.

Needless to say, such content only works for an evolved audience. The film's reach could have been widened if the makers had steered clear of too much self-indulgence and explained at least some sequences a little more. But what hurts the film more is its length. Such an unconventional flick with not much of a storyline should not run to 122 minutes.

Coming to the performances, the actors appear to be like real individuals living life in the real world. Rohit Kokate, who plays the lead, gets various shades of his complicated character down pat. A lot in the film depends on the tone and modulation of his voice because, as we mentioned earlier, his face isn’t seen much. But Kokate is up to the task. Clearly, this is an actor who deserves to be seen a lot more on screen, pun unintended. 

In the role of his wife, Saudamini Tikle is dependable. The actor who plays a spiritual guru succeeds in tackling an unusual part. He, too, relies more on his voice. There are some decent supporting acts from the performers playing the psychiatrist and police officer. 

Overall, Kaul: A Calling is a daring, experimental film.

Director: Aadish Keluskar
Producers: Chin2 Singh and Uma Mahesh Keluskar
Cast: Rohit Kokate, Saudamini Tikle
Writer: Aadish Keluskar
Genre: Psychological thriller
Runtime: 122 minutes