Debutant director Tara Ramanujan’s film is the first to be produced by the Kerala State Film Development Corporation to support aspiring women filmmakers. The film premiered at the Bengaluru International Film Festival this week.
Tanmay Dhanania and Kani Kusruthi in a still from the film
Last Updated: 11.58 AM, Mar 08, 2022
Story: House help and part-time mid-wife Chaavi (Kani Kusruti), a migrant of Tamil descent living in Kochi, befriends Rudra (Tanmay Dhanania) a Bengali idol-maker-turned-construction worker. They are both troubled souls – he believes he’s responsible for his uncle’s accidental death at a constructions site, while she’s living reminder of not being wanted, a survivor of a female infanticide attempt. What happens when the twain meet forms the crux of this tale.
Review: The Malayalam-Bangla bilingual Nishiddho (Forbidden), by debutant director Tara Ramanujan, premiered at the Bengaluru International Film Festival this week. It’s got Kani Kusruti, an actress who’s been growing from strength-to-strength with her choice of offbeat cinema and Tanmay Dhanania (of Indian Summers, Brahman Naman fame) in the lead.
When I watched the film, the first question that came to mind was, why set it in Kochi? Yes, Kerala has pockets of migrant populations – there are Tamil, Telugu and Gujarati colonies, among others - but female infanticide, which is one of the themes of the films is not something you’d relate with the state, considering that its male to female ratio often has the latter outweighing the former. So, why make your leading lady a Tamil mid-wife whose ‘client’ is on baby number 3 and doesn’t want it if it is ’yet another girl’? Also, despite its large Bengali migrant population engaged in menial jobs, Kerala does not have a culture of pujo celebrations just yet, for which idol makers come to the state. That’s something you’d see in in a metro like Bengaluru, perhaps. Filmmaker Tara, of course, has her reasons for said setting.
Writing too much about the story would be disservice to the film. It is about Chaavi, who works as a house help and part-time midwife, and is troubled not only by the circumstances surrounding her own existence, but by her client’s refusal to accept a third girl child. It is also about Rudra, a former idol maker, who now ekes out a living as a construction site labourer. He’s plagued by guilt that his uncle’s accidental death on the site could have been his fault. The bond that these troubled souls forge forms the central plot of Nishiddho.
What works for the film is its casting. You can quite literally feel Chaavi’s anguish in Kani’s eyes. Tanmay is also just perfect as the Bengali migrant labourer who’s picked up a smattering of Malayalam. What doesn’t is the aforementioned setting of the tale. Female infanticide, no doubt, is a subject that has to be addressed, just not in Kerala.
Verdict: As a debutant filmmaker, Tara’s valiant attempt to tell a hard-hitting story deserves applause.