Director-Writer: Karan Gour, Actors: Rasika Dugal, Alekh Sangal
Karan Gour’s debut feature Kshay marked a good start for a film career, winning several awards abroad before its theatrical release. The director wanted to portray a side of the human nature that few will feel comfortable about: it’s the obsession that can lead to destruction.
Chhaya, a young woman remains enchanted by a bright white, unpainted statue of Lakshmi. At the beginning there is only admiration for the work of art and its splendor and the young woman asks her husband to buy the statue as a gift for her. Since the couple can’t afford it, the husband postpones the grant of this unusual wish, but with the time passing, Chhaya gets more and more obsessed with the idea that that particular statue of Lakshmi will not just reestablish life in her body and make her fertile and capable of conceiving a child, but bring her ultimate happiness. This conviction becomes a destructive longing in that it makes her do no matter what to obtain the money to buy Lakshmi.
Kshay tells the story of an obsession that becomes the story of decay and the reason for destruction. It’s a story of extreme emotions and of utter states of being. So the way of telling the story also makes use of contrasting elements–a good reason to choose black and white images and to embrace the darkness as much in the choice of spaces and lighting as often the events and the portrayal of a woman on the verge of craziness demands it. As reasonable as it is; when enhanced with other elements of effect, such as sound and strong gestures it sometimes gets too “loud”. When music, sound effects and visual effects dominate a scene for too long; it gets tiring and confusing –though that might be the impact the director wanted to have on the audience—in that sense the appropriateness of this context could be interpreted in different ways.
A beautiful idea is to present Chhaya’s point of view suggesting how she feels the goddess looking at her at every step where she encounters her in any representation on the market or in the streets. It gives relief as playful, almost light-heated moments amidst the despair of the protagonist. As the obsession and the acts it induces seem dark and difficult, they look “from the inside”; Chayya and Lakshmi looking at each other creates sometimes a moment of complicity that doesn’t exclude the spectator from the woman’s life. As much as the craziness would create a distance between the audience and the character, the sweet moments don’t let the spectator drift off and give a special dynamic through this repetitive play of getting closer and getting distant – a sign of sense of rhythm and of talent of the director.
But I feel there is a lack of sensitivity when it comes to giving a reason for the tie between Lakshmi and Chhaya. It couldn’t have been just any goddess. We’re talking about a woman who might be desperate to have a baby and who at a certain point even says desperately that she’s dead from the inside. But as the idea appears it also disappears quickly, we don’t get to know her and so we can’t witness a real transformation through the ignited obsession about the statue. Without a real ground for the infatuation, Kshay leaves us with the looks, a rhythm and an aesthetic formal construction of an obsession. It can be an interesting experience to watch it; but I don’t think it’ll either comfort people watching it, or make them more conscientious, or bring them a moment of harmony.
Boglarka Nagy is a film writer and festival programmer from Romania. She saw Kshay at the Transilvania International Film Festival 2012.