IFFLA Diary 2011: Laadli Laila (Virgin Goat)
We have seen a number of films about farmer’s lives; so here is another. This time, it is a satire. It presents itself with a fairly insistent and consistent tone that the excesses of the narrative stand for something else. The success of a satire is measured by the suggestion of its target: what is it making fun of? Who is it directed against? A farmer finds his goat to be a beloved possession, the last in the lineage that has continued for 500 years. He must get her to her male counterpart in heat so s/he can continue that lineage. There are other things to do in life, of course;attending to his wife and family, offering some supervision as a parent to his wayward son and to counsel and protect his married daughter who is home after a serious domestic quarrel. Why is Kalyan after this virgin goat?
As Kalyan searches for the right moment and the right opportunity to get Laila mated, he comes across a doctor who can concoct Viagra like potion, and also comes across the National Security Apparatus that is getting ready to welcome some nameless national leader in area. Kalyan and his goat get caught in the security measures; they are not allowed to traverse their own land in search of the mating moment and even get separated, interrogated as possible suspects up to making unpredictable moves when the Leader is about to arrive. He meets a polygamous man whose virility he wonders about as he sets out to find a mate for Laila. Kalyan has a few dreams arising out of his anxieties. In one, he finds a rally with hundreds of red flags with his Laila on it. In another, he is confronted by the hordes of possible mates dressed in white garbs, haunting and chasing him.
Kalyan keeps losing it through it all. He finds himself alone, tattered and lost, wandering the barren land, still carrying his imaginary Laila. The imagery in this film is vivid and it is clear that the director Murali Nair, intends to broaden and sharpen his palette to mould this satire into something meaningful. There are some instances where the humor is simple but strong, such as an argument between him and a farmer when the mating occasion leaves both of them frustrated and they end up blaming the virility of each other’s animals. But the intensity and the sharpness or even the direction of his satirical references shifts and weakens as the film goes along.
We really don’t know what drives Kalyan to this stage? His lack of motivation in farming? Is this some kind of displacement of his frustrations with being a farmer, a husband, a father or a victim of bureaucracy? His wife remains a steady presence in his life, alternatively trying to knock some sense into him and offering him advice to give it all up. This aimless desire to make Laila give up her virginity does not bear fruit and Kalyan and then the film with it, wanders off into a desolate land that brings no answers.