Review Malayalam

Prappeda review: Harbinger of revolutionary experimentalism in Malayalam cinema

Release Date: 2022 / 01hr 56min


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Vidyasree Bindu

Krishnendu Kalesh’s feature is a dystopian sci-fi tale open to myriad interpretations.

In an evolving medium like cinema, it is not surprising to see experimental works from time to time. However, when it happens in Malayalam cinema, which mostly reeks of conventional plots and storytelling based on mass entertainment, it is a welcome change. Krishnendu Kalesh’s Prappeda, also known as Hawk’s Muffin, is a dystopian sci-fi tale that can be termed experimental in the truest sense of the word.

Crafted as a surreal fairy tale, Prappeda’s narrative is placed in a post-war time frame and located in the familiar landscape of a rubber plantation which is in synch with the popular idea of Kerala. The opening scene of the movie, which is of a bomber spearing through white clouds, is, perhaps, the first of its kind in Malayalam cinema as never before have we seen such an anti-war/post-war dystopian fantasy.

It is quite challenging to summarize the story in a nutshell as the narrative is fragmented and crypt-like and can only be deciphered by decoding the visual, audio and verbal clues placed throughout the movie. Still, the basic plot is a tale of liberation. To be precise, it is about multiple liberations and revolts of the weak and the marginalized. The message loud and clear from the movie is that wars never end, even if there is just one man involved.

The movie presents myriad possibilities of interpretation, the most prominent being the semiotic one. Symbols like a hawk, a pigeon (Prappeda can loosely be translated as female pigeon or timid pigeon) and tortoise are all related to themes of war, peace, time and so on.

In the Q&A session after the film's screening, director Krishnendu Kalesh said the movie was not based on a conventional script, but on an extended 19 page synopsis. The structure of the film is based on the paragraph structure of the synopsis, which is evident from the fact that the narration jumps from one part to another, contrary to the conventional mode, where the medium flows along the course of a well-framed script.

Prappeda is that kind of movie where the medium or form is given more attention than the content. Reminding us of the postmodern works in literature that depend heavily on the interpretation of the receiver/reader/viewer, Prappeda is an artwork that seeks the full engagement of an active viewer.

The movie also reflects the changing times of media evolution that enable a viewer to go back to a film time and again and watch it at her/his own pace for better understanding, unlike in days gone by when you could watch a movie only once at the pace decided by the filmmaker.

When art in general and cinema in particular is approached in a scientific way backed by academic acumen, works like Prappeda take birth. However, for whom the movie is made is still a matter of debate. It can be easily said that the movie is for anyone who is interested in experiencing a film. Still, the patience and open-mindedness required to be the ideal receptor of such a movie are not commonly found in an audience used to conventional and linear storytelling with elements of mass entertainment.

That Krishnendu Kalesh is deeply influenced by world cinema and filmmakers like Guillermo del Toro is reflected in Prappeda. The design and art of the movie rendered by Indulal Kaveed, the cinematography by Maneesh Madhavan and the brilliant background score by Bijibal require special mention. So, too, do the stellar performances by lead artistes Ketaki Narayan, Nithin George and Rajesh Madhavan. The theatre experience of the last named has been beautifully used for his character in the film.

One film that could be placed in the vicinity of this movie based on some distant similarities is Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Churuli (2021). This may not be the favourite movie of the crowd. But Prappeda has unleashed that sensibility into the world of Malayalam cinema which will not go unnoticed; a sensibility capable of starting revolutions.

Prappeda (Hawk's Muffin) was screened at the 26th International Film Festival of Kerala held from 18–25 March 2022.

 

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