Osian’s Cinefan 2012 Review: Kenny Basumatary’s “Local Kung Fu”
Local Kung Fu is an unabashed tribute to the Hong Kong-breed of comic Kung Fu films made so famous worldwide by Jackie Chan films. The only difference is, Kenny Basumatary has managed to complete this film, shot with a Canon 550D camera, with just Rs 95,000.
We have had other examples of ultra-low-budget films in India before, a most notable recent example being The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project, but as one could see at the world premiere of LKF at the 12th Osian’s Cinefan Film Festival on Saturday, July 29, Basumatary’s film needs to be celebrated not only for this fact. Instead, this is a film that needs to be lauded for its true-blooded – VFX or cable-unassisted – martial arts action combined with locally-rooted comedy.
Basumatary is quite definitely a multi-talented person – he is a published author, an actor (seen in a small role in Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai recently), a martial arts exponent and now a director. And he not only uses his own talents but has also pooled his relatives’ and friends’ help and talent to make LKF. Like almost all low-budget – or “zero budget” as some of them claim to be – films, LKF is low in technical finish, but its spirit is what makes it a worthy watch.
Unlike the technology-assisted visually-stunning stunts we see in big-budget Hollywood and Indian mainstream films, LKF has real stunts executed by real Kung Fu experts and students. And it won’t be incorrect to say that it has some of the best realistic stunts we have seen in an Indian film in a long, long time. In fact, some of the action can easily be compared to the best of the best – except for the fact that they visually look a tad rough, simply because there is no artificial aid that usually helps stunts to be executed with finesse.
Basumatary has written in his blog how he managed to shoot the film in such a low budget – he bought the camera, and his cast & crew comprised his martial arts instructor uncle’s students and a host of relatives. But the amateur crew manages to do its job rather well in their first brush with movie making, and most of the actors etch out their characters quite admirably, especially when one takes into account the fact that the film’s tone and tenor is comedic with a big dose of martial arts.
What, however, might be missed by non-Assamese viewers of this Assamese movie, where the hero Charlie is played by Kenny himself, is the very local-flavoured – sometimes even Guwahati-specific – humour. At the Osian’s premiere, the good sprinkling of Assamese people in the early morning screening ensured that there was adequate response to the comic scenes, and this is a good indication that if this film is released in Assam with adequate publicity, it has a great potential to do well commercially. But then, that is also a plus point of the film – in that it captures the idiom of a fast-changing city rather well.
The director also deserves credit for subtly bringing out the fast-degrading moral quotient of a haphazardly-modernising city like Guwahati. Here, the villains are not really all-black villains. They are merely a reflection of the times when aimless youth are taking to the easy money culture. They try to get liquor shot licences by hook or by crook, extort money from small-time shopkeepers, and while away their time in street corners trying to learn the art of bullying. You don’t hate these villains but sometimes even start to like them. In fact, a very thin line divides the good and the bad in the film, and that’s what makes it look more realistic.
LKF is a roller coaster ride till its lasts, and despite its rough edges, should be applauded for its economy of making and vision of execution. It, along with films like The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project, serves as a model of how a good film need not have big budgets only, though it goes without saying that with adequate funding, it would have looked much sleeker.