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Koli Taal review: Uncomplicated and moving tale about greed and trust

Release Date: 27 May 2022 / 01hr 30min

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Suyog Zore

Though the film is written and directed by a first-timer, Abhilash Shetty, the frames and objects in them feel so real, so alive that you can almost smell and touch them.

Writer-director Abhilash Shetty's Koli Taal (The Chicken Curry) is an uncomplicated film about greed and trust. Vanaja (Radha Ramachandra) and Mahabala (Prabhakar Kunder), a retired couple, live a mundane life in a simple rundown home in an idyllic village surrounded by a forest.

Vanaja is full of enthusiasm despite her age taking its toll on her health. Her daily routine, which begins with tulsi pooja, involves cooking, sweeping and applying cowdung to the front yard. Mahabala, a chain beedi-smoker, fetches dried leaves and twigs from the nearby forest. Despite his addiction, he seems to be the healthier of the two. They are as much a part of nature as the birds and trees in their backyard.

Vanaja and Mahabala have employed three young men — Maanja, Sathish and Haala — to plough their backyard. The young men are lively but you don't need to be a psychologist to tell that they are not happy with how their lives have turned out.

The couple seem to be content with life when Vanaja receives a phone call from their grandson Sumanth (Abhilash Shetty), who lives in the national capital Delhi for higher studies. He is coming to meet his grandparents after three years.

Excited about their grandson's visit, the old couple decide to prepare a chicken curry for him. They have also picked out a particularly healthy rooster for the dish. But things go awry when that very rooster can't be found. Has it gone missing or has it been stolen?

The story takes place over a period of three days and writer-director Shetty has captured the mundane and boring life of an aged couple with minute attention to detail. The frames and objects in the frames feel so real, so alive that you can almost smell and touch them.

The house itself is another character in the film. From its very first frame, the film sucks you into the world of this elderly couple. Their habits, the bond they share with each other, and their selfless love for their grown-up grandson are like an open book that anyone can read.

A scene from Koli Taal. Photo: Courtesy of NYIFF

Shetty allows the viewers to immerse themselves in the world of these simple folk as grandson and grandparents rekindle their relationship. Not much happens, in terms of plot, but the way Shetty grabs your attention even during the most mundane activities like grinding masala on a traditional grinding stone or cutting banana leaves is remarkable. The use of ambient sound like the chirping of birds and rustling of leaves instead of a traditional background score make it an even more immersive experience.

Both senior artistes Radha and Kunder have delivered excellent performances. They carry the film. It would never have worked if their performances were not convincing. The excellent cinematography by Swaroop Yashwanth is an important factor that elevates the viewing experience. He mostly uses natural light, fog, trees and sunlight as tools as his fluid camera moves seamlessly from the backyard to the couple's dimly lit kitchen.

Does Koli Taal make any profound statement on our society or give our eyes some breathtaking visuals to feast upon? Maybe not. But does that make it a less impressive film? Absolutely not.

Koli Taal is being screened as part of the 21st New York Indian Film Festival, which is being held virtually from 4–13 June.


Related topics

New York Indian Film Festival

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