It is more often a rare experience to be a part of a ‘critical insider’ while being with a movie. Politics is also very rarely seen in the ‘foreground’ in the ‘making’ of a movie – the most widely visible practice is to place it in the ‘background.’ What politically goes in between these spaces (background and foreground) is also rarely understood. Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s ‘Ozhivu Divasathe Kali’(An Off-Day Game) is surely a departure in cinematic representation from the point of view of engaging with a foreground ‘political game.’ It sets a real-time political space for a social representation – a rendezvous for the day of ‘judgement’ with the social class representation, caste hierarchy with the division of labour, social identity with middleclass hangovers, besides patriarchal mindsets, and eventually, the politics of exclusion, all coalesce in a single frame, and the ‘visual art’ moves in till the final act of an unrecognised ‘elimination.’ An unusual experience with a film which is cinematically scripted by the real-time characters !
The site of this rendezvous in Unni’s short story is Room No.70, Nandavanam Lodge which has been transformed into a picturesque landscape of a place near Aruvikkara in the film. It is more than a political satire that the ‘Off day’ for the five member team (four in the story of Unni R) is a by-election day and Dasan is curious to know what is in store. Dasan’s representation/ misrepresentation and his eventual ‘conviction’ point to the kernel of the theme. He is a reminding us,
“When I Born, I Black,
When I Grow Up, I Black,
When I Go In Sun, I Black,
When I Scared, I Black,
When I Sick, I Black,
And When I Die, I Still Black..”
Let us also recall some memorable lines from Rohit Vemula’s final note: “The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of star dust. In every field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living…. I feel a growing gap between my soul and my body. And I have become a monster…Our feelings are second handed. Our love is constructed. Our beliefs coloured. Our originality valid through artificial art. It has become truly difficult to love without getting hurt…”
In that sense, Dasan was also not just playing the game, but rather he is played upon. The four other men representing a spectrum of the middle class in Kerala ‘heard and unheard’ the lone voices of Dasan in the final act. His appeal will never ring in our ears as we are again getting ready for the next ‘off-day’ rendezvous. The film is much more sharper, insightful and disturbing than the original story. The fact that the charges imposed on Dasan are matters coming under ‘sedition’ shows that subalternity still has ‘great’ potential for subversion!
Sanal Kumar Sasidharan did a marvellous job without a scripted ‘text.’ Abhija Sivakala (Geetha), Nisthar Sait (Dharman), Baiju Netto (Dasan), Girish Nair (Thirumeni), Pradeep Kumar (Vinayan), Reju Reju Pillai (Narayanan) and Arun Nair (Ashokan) deserve all praise for making this a ‘lived experience.’ Indrajith, the cinematographer, lets his camera to be a real-time character in the film. Wonderful, indeed. The final moments are remarkably unique for its representation from all directions, and the outcome of the game is politically a lesson to be learnt. Politics of the celluloid here succeeds in its entirety in narrating – narrating not a ‘fiction’ but several disturbing ‘social facts’ about which we seldom bother.
K.M.SEETHI is Professor, School of International Relations and Politics, Mahatma Gandhi University, Priyadarshini Hills PO., Kottayam, Kerala, India-686560, He is also Editor of South Asian Journal of Diplomacy and the Indian Journal of Politics and International Relations.