One of the most endearing movies at the Indian Panorama at the ongoing International Film Festival of India (IFFI) is Avinash Arun's Killa (Fort). Set in the beautiful Konkan region, the Marathi movie is a poignant presentation of isolation and rootlessness that have been brushed into the cinematic canvas through a little boy, Chinmay (played with natural ease by Archit Deaodhar).
Suffering from a suffocating sense of rootlessness, Chinmay struggles to find friends in the new village where his mother (another superb performance by Amruta Subhash) has been transferred. Having lost her husband recently, she is fighting her own demons, but pushes herself to give some kind of stability and continuity to her little son. But professional compulsions interspersed with corruption and petty rivalry at workplace, make her efforts agonisingly painful.
There is not much of a story in Killa though, but breathtaking visuals add to the slices of life that Arun colours his movie with, and many of the scenes that tell about Chinmay's diffident steps towards forging friendship with other boys in the village are presented with authenticity and some great characterisations.
Avinash Arun's Killa won the Silver Gateway of India at 16th Mumbai Film Festival. (killathefilm/Facebook)
And naturally so. Arun told Hindustan Times on Friday that a lot of his film was autobiographical. "I was born in Maharashtra's Solapur, but grew up in some regions of Konkana. The landscape of these places was so striking that it kept haunting me. And Killa emerged."
He reflected further. "Many of the incidents in the movie actually happened to me or my friends. The scene of the snake, for instance. I had also got lost once, like Chinmay, though not inside a fort like him. My efforts to make friends in a new town or village have all found a place in Killa."
Killa, which means a fort, has been used metaphorically. Killa can mean the comfort of four walls that a fort provides. It also means a sense of exploration and adventure. (Have we not seen this in some of the children's adventure tales? Why Enid Blyton's Famous Five is an excellent example).
Of course, Killa is by no means a children's film, and, as The Hollywood Reporter critic, Deborah Young, mentioned a few days ago that the movie had suffered at Berlin, because it was included in the children's section of the festival last February - though it did win a Crystal Award there.
Killa will hit the theatre circuit early next year. It will probably be confined to Maharashtra, and what a sad thing that will be.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the International Film Festival of India for Hindustan Times.)