Rotterdam 2010 Diary: Kutty Srank
Veteran and accomplished Malyalam film maker Shaji N. Karun comes across at once as a philosopher of cinema and its skilful proponent. His sensibilities are deeply embedded in Indian aesthetic. Since films have taken over the function of dreaming and that of magic, both of which are abundant in folktales, their social role, for Indian audiences in particular, is to continue that mission. The central topic of such dreams and narratives, for Shaji N. Karun, is love. His Kutty srank (Sailor of Hearts) is a vivid color drama of a central character whose life narrative cris-crosses with that of others. Commandingly acted by the already legendary Mammothy, the central character of Kutty srank shows all the desirable qualities of loyalty, duty and love as do the iconic characters of The Mahabharata.
For a popular film, Kutty Srank has a non-linear narrative, long a puzzle for those who watch cinema from outside of India, where transitions and narrative movements challenge the settled assumptions about logic or comprehensible progression. It is hard to share dreams of others. The film does have a magical effect if you assume that the transitions and narrative movements have a mythical character.
It is unjust to place demands on the reasons on which film aesthetics is founded, particularly one that is so culture-specific. Once that is acceptable, Kutty srank is a delightful narrative operating on the level of popular mythology. The film appealed to the audiences at Rotterdam but it was unclear the attraction was more like the magnetic attention exotic object arouses or from a sincere attempt to rise to the level of what world cinema is, an attempt to conceive of a field where films can and will hold appeal beyond the cultural boundaries.
Shaji N. Karun speaks like a prophet-philosopher of cinema in India. He believes the powerful hold cinema has on the people in India, despite its diversity and distance. An experienced practitoner and a winner of several international awards, including at Cannes, he has much to say about how cinema functions. There is much value to his appeal to look at Indian cinema throuogh an aesthetic lens that is our own.