Kolkata, 14 Nov 2018 19:00 IST
The film confuses, endears and overwhelms the audience with its conflicts, statements and the journeys.
Praveen Sukumaran’s Sayahnangalil Chila Manushyar (Certain Lives In Twilight) is a thoroughly philosophical film with stunning visuals. The director deals with an extremely complex subject in the film, yet the plot progresses smoothly. As silence often speaks volumes, Sukumaran’s film offers a lot of space for its ideas to breathe and sink in the mind of the viewers.
According to the director, the film is inspired from French philosopher, theorist, linguist and historian Michel Foucalt’s life. The film not only narrates the journey of a Philosophy professor and a thinker’s life, it also questions several norms and values of society and the significance of the philosophical theories as well.
Firstly, the director deserves credits for choosing the most suitable location for presenting the entire cinematic experience. All the incidents take place in a small house, comprising of two rooms and a verandah facing a range of hills cut through by a tranquil river.
The protagonist (Shurjit Gopinath), who is lovingly called Foucalt by his students comes and sits on the verandah or the in the lap of nature as he finds more relief in the vastness. The philosophy professor is one day brought by one of his devoted students (Jijoy P R) to this serene place. His eyes are full of burden yet they want to shine bright. While his student takes care of him in silence, he too contemplates, silently.
Until a major part of the film is over, the protagonist does not have any dialogue. He only screams, having been suddenly awakened from sleep, writhing in pain. More than any medicine, it is his student’s affectionate massage on his back that soothes him.
The film gradually offers a peek into his life as more characters are introduced. They appear from nowhere, which suggests that they are not actually physically present, but are mere fragments of the professor’s weary memory. It is revealed that he had suddenly left his home on a quest for truth while his mother kept waiting for his return until she died, never complaining for once. That night, he silently writhes in agony and cries over the photograph of his mother.
His voice is heard for the first time when he encounters his younger self that comes on a visit. He tries to confront him in vain and is severely scoffed at by him. He finally confesses that he has adjusted with his ailments — arthritis and cancer — but misses his brain.
His student then recalls some of his master’s precious words and realises what a painful phase he must be going through. While all his life, his Foucalt ran away from all his worldly attachments to understand the deepest mysteries of philosophy and truth, now those theories and ideas are trying to engulf him. No matter how hard he tries, he cannot stay away from the confrontations with his memories and reality.
The student plans for a small recreation on the professor's birthday and his teacher is happy to enjoy the simple celebration. Later, while he sleeps, his student relates his weariness with the wrinkles on his body through the lenses of his camera. However, soon the teacher is hit by the memory of how he was taken advantage of by one of his close relatives and was robbed off all his belongings. Here, the director also creates a scenario of paradox as once the student overwhelmingly recalls all the lessons taught by him in the class while sipping tea and a madman starts hysterically laughing at their conversation.
The student once expresses that philosophy is nothing but a hollow play with words which, at the end of the day, are superficial. He believes the ultimate bliss lies in his own simple resort where he can enjoy his mother’s love like a child.
Later, he also senses doubt in his master’s ideology and lifestyle and the latter replies that for a man, only to be engaged in the process of thinking is a great deal. The teacher says that words are gradually leaving him and yet there is an entire universe inside his mind.
The teacher’s last confrontation with reality takes place when his yesteryear’s love interest appears in his conscience and asks him to let go of her. That night his pain doesn’t seem to recede and he screams, sad that all his loved ones have gradually left him. He is sure that soon his student will also leave.
The rest of the film shows how both the teacher and the student choose their own path towards ultimate freedom.
Sayahnangalil Chila Manushyar is crafted with so much care that each of its frame and scene, their compositions, work of light and significance can be analysed in detail. Even the single posture of the teacher while looking at his younger self go away, seems to be a piece of artwork on the canvas. The empty chair conveys volumes when his father leaves it after talking about his mother.
The vastness of the nature merges well with the concept of infinite mysteries of life. Each of the shot taken by Appu Prabhakar reveals a different dimension of the same location. Cinematographer and editor Nobin Thomas makes the portrait of the teacher against the rising sun in the hills and the vastness of the sky convey so much more.
The incoherence in the teacher’s mind is beautifully depicted in the episode of his nephew taking advantage of him. After making him sign a will with a thumb impression, the nephew starts drinking with the student and gives a lecture on humanity. Suddenly, he gets worried about his uncle and when he doesn’t find him outside the house, all the lights in the house go off and he suddenly rushes off.
The freezing shots of the film are the ones most jarring and they hit with the realities of the teacher’s life. After his birthday celebration, the student and the teacer are shown half covered by a quilt over the head, suggesting to more layers in their bond.
The teacher, who now doesn’t know how to distinguish between sanity and insanity, is also a victim of corruption and misunderstanding.
Silence plays a crucial role in the film, which has very few yet extremely poignant dialogues. Kudos to the director for successfully maintaining a balance of sound throughout the film.
Jophy Chirayath’s music merges with the languid pace of the film and establishes the spirit of a cosmic energy that seems to control all the illusive happenings in the world and in the characters’ lives. It consistently maintains a mysterious and poetic mood in the film.
Last but not the least, the casting of the film could not have been better. Shurjit Gopinath is so much into the skin of the character that he becomes the embodiment of all of the character's traits and paradoxes discussed throughout the film. Jijoy P R is brilliant in subtly portraying a deep affection and respect for his teacher.
The film confuses, endears and overwhelms the audience with its conflicts, statements and the journeys. Sayahnangalil Chila Manushyar is definitely not made for the masses, rather it is a treat for those who not only crave for good cinematic and poetic experience, but also look forward to some deep thoughts to ponder upon.
Sayahnangalil Chila Manushyar (Certain Lives In Twilight) was screened at the Kolkata International Film Festival on 13 November 2018.
Related topicsKolkata International Film Festival
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