When it won the prestigious Tiger award at Rotterdam this year, the critical responses to SEXY DURGA were both squeamish and rapturous. Was Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s road movie about star-crossed lovers unrelentingly provocative, or a masterly exposure of the vulnerability of women in Indian society to exploitation that masquerades as chivalry? The answer is: it’s both.
After a jaw-dropping opening sequence documenting the rites dedicated to Kali in Kerala, the audience is introduced to Kabeer and his beloved Durga, named for another facet of the goddess. They have eloped in the middle of the night, with angry families behind them and a late night journey on a desolate road ahead. Hitchhiking leaves them dependent on the good will of drivers, but the motives of the people who pick them up remain inscrutable.
Sasidharan’s manipulation of the audience and his characters’ uncertainty is a fascinating plot engine, captured in skillfully choreographed long takes. Risk-taking cinemagoers will be rewarded with an intense and suspenseful experience that demonstrates the vanguard of independent Indian filmmaking.
Q&A to follow with director and producer Sanal Kumar Sasidharan and Shaji Mathew
- Sanal Kumar Sasidharan
Kerala-based Sanal Kumar Sasidharan graduated in Zoology and Law and started his professional career as a lawyer. Out of his passion for cinema he helped form a film society, Kazhcha Film Forum, for making independent movies through crowdfunding, and Cinema Cab, a travelling cinema initiative to promote indie films in Kerala. He has won the Best Director Award at the 2014 Kerala State Film Awards for his debut feature film ORAALPPOKKAM. The film has also received FIPRESCI and NETPAC awards at the 2014 International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK). His second film OZHIVUDIVASATHE KALI (AN OFF-DAY GAME) has won the Best Film Award at the Kerala State Film Awards, as well as the FIPRESCI Award for Best Malayalam Film at the IFFK 2015. The film was released in theaters in Kerala and other states of India.