The most celebrated of filmmakers do not have it easy in today’s India -- where in addition to quirky censorship, political and quasi-political organisations impede screenings with their dogmatic views. So, when the young Kerala director, Sanalkumar Sasidharan, decided to title his upcoming movie Sexy Durga, it ought to have called for enormous guts.
In a telephone conversation from his home in Thiruvananthapuram, he told this writer this morning that he would not change the title of his film, whose shoot begins on March 20. To be completed in a single schedule, Sexy Durga, will have just 10 scenes (or shots, as he calls them) playing over 100 minutes or so.
Rajshree Despande -- who was part of Pan Nalin’s 2015 Angry Indian Goddesses -- will essay the lead in Sexy Durga.
The story and screenplay, written by Sasidharan, will convey what he feels is a painful reality in this country today. “While women are revered and worshipped as mothers and daughters, they are also exploited and subject to terrible cruelty by the society,” he says.
Sexy Durga will convey through a fictionalised true story how the community dishonours and demeans a woman when she is sexually abused, sensationalising the incident and viewing the outrage as a social, religious and political issue. Never as a humanitarian issue. “Women continue to be treated as commodities, especially in Kerala,” Sasidharan regrets.
Sasidharan is known for his powerfully evocative cinema. His earlier An Off-Day Game, which was screened at National Film Development Corporation of India’s Film Bazaar in Goa last November, traces the adventure of five men whose holiday fun of boozing and banter turns viciously cruel.
Set in a desolate bungalow, we see the men getting drunk and arguing about who would kill the rooster. Soon, other arguments keep the group exercised, allegations and counter-allegations, providing both a pastime and cause for rancour. One of the men is so livid that he walks out of the bungalow in pouring rain -- till the others chase him, cajole him for many minutes before he agrees to return to what threatens to become a terribly tragic party.
An Off-Day Game -- based on a best-selling short story by Malayalam writer R Unni --is deeply intriguing, exploring subjects like political corruption, caste prejudices and colour discrimination. Many layered and crisply narrated, the movie is compelling, and is all set to travel the festival circuit.
Sexy Durga may well turn out to be as riveting as an An Off-Day Game, the title adding to the allure.