Review Malayalam

Chavittu review: A provocative and captivating satire that pulsates with life

Release Date: 2022 / 01hr 25min

Cinestaan Rating

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Sukhpreet Kahlon

The Malayalam feature by Sajas and Shinos Rahman revels in stomping on all kinds of boundaries.

The Malayalam feature Chavittu (Stomp, 2021), written and directed by brothers Sajas and Shinos Rahman, is a tribute to folk art forms and theatre while satirizing present-day society and politics. 

A group of theatre performers have been asked to present their play at a function organized by a residents’ association in a small town in Kerala. They arrive at the venue and throughout the day, the actors rehearse their play.

Meanwhile, the auditorium is being readied for the big event. That is simply what Chavittu is about. But within this, the part-documentary-part-drama melds together a range of ideas and concerns. 

Following the Brechtian alienation technique, the film defies the convention of a narrative that sucks the audience into the story. There is no protagonist or antagonist, nor are the names of characters mentioned. The film shifts gear and leads us in different directions, constantly pushing us to interpret the segments being presented before us. 

Chavittu foregrounds the theatre troupe and through it, pays homage to the artists and performers who give their all to their performance. The troupe moves to the lush green fields, singing songs, improving their choreography and rehearsing their dialogues. We see the young performers as they are completely immersed in their art, their eyes blazing, their bodies untiring. There is even an element of sensuality as the movements of the performers pulsate with energy. 

In stark contrast to their commitment and labour is the lackadaisical attitude of the apparently ‘elite’ audience members who, in a stinging satire on our social media-obsessed society, receive awards for the number of YouTube followers and their posts on Facebook! As the audience members wax eloquent about tradition and the death of literature and cinema, their actions markedly oppose their words.

A sharp critique of the present political and social climate in the country, the play within the film comments on developmental revolution, the idea of progress, obsessive collection of data, the hypocrisy behind the preservation of cultural heritage, the dominance of money and chronic mythologizing that seems to overshadow all else. However, it is never didactic, choosing to gesture instead, and quite often, with humour. 

The performers, from the theatre troupe Little Earth School of Theatre, are captivating. We see snatches of the play that they are to present before the audience and crave more. Their rousing songs and the energetic folk dance skillfully express the spirit of defiance that the film embodies. 

“If we lose our song, we’ll sing it back/ If we lose our step, we’ll find it back,” goes the rhythmic song in the film. What better words to capture revolutionary fervour?

Chavittu was premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and was recently screened as part of the Habitat International Film Festival.


Related topics

Habitat Film Festival

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