[V]asan Bala’s debut feature Peddlers is a film potent with possibilities for the new Indian cinema. Set on the fringes of megapolis Mumbai, the film captures the ironies and aspirations of its dwellers. While the film can be said to be set up in the familiar territory of Mumbai thriving with drug mafia, slums, cops and violence; what sets it apart is the reflection of their inadequecies and the burden of it.
Vasan has got a distict style that has the stylized rawness of a gangster film, replete with chase sequences, and the power of an emotional heart wrencher. He has got an eye for irony and drama sans sentimentality. The strength of his storytelling lies in his ability to take us deep inside the characters.
His worldview is that of a pessimist who has lost faith in the goodness of humanity. Vasan with his characters caught deep in their inadequecies has no fascination for heroism. For his characters, survival is the biggest battle and triumph. This is the one aspect of Peddlers’ storytelling where it captures the true essence of life in Mumbai.
Peddlers follows an episodic structure. First we are introduced to a set of characters, whose lives seem to have little in common. As the film progresses, the string that binds these characters together gets evident. It’s a film that invests a lot in its climax though; when it comes it takes you completely by surprise.
As one has experienced with episodic narratives before, Peddlers takes time to draw one into its world. Vasan presents a maze in the beginning that starts to make sense as we go along. Towards the end you know that everything is heading towards something but you don’t know what.
Sidharth Diwan’s restless camera adds amply in capturing the life in the megapolis. Prerna Saigal’s editing is worthy of a special mention.
Vasan Bala’s Peddlers marks a very promising debut. I would be looking forward to his next.