Prakash Babu’s Mysterious Men will be a trip in fantasy
MS Prakash Babu’s Mysterious Men (Nigudha Manushyaru) was part of the National Film Development Corporation’s Film Bazaar at the ongoing International Film Festival of India here. In the co-production section of the market, the movie is seeking funding partners. Like Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Nizhalkkuthu (Shadow Kill), where the palm tree becomes almost a character, Prakash Babu’s film will have a mountainous terrain as a character.
Based on a 1973 short story by KP Poornachandra Tejesvi, Mysterious Men begins on a rainy night in a forest where an excise inspector and his writer friend find themselves stranded when their car breaks down after hitting a muddy bog.
Mysterious Men then takes wings, so to say, and goes on a trip of fantasy with tribals and a village landlord stepping in to rescue the two men and get them moving again.
While most of the actors will be non-professionals, Kannada actor and Prakash Babu’s wife, Bhavani, will play a small but significant role as Shaari in the movie.
Prakash Babu told this writer on Tuesday night over a dinner meeting that he had only used Tejesvi’s story as a starting point for his film. Babu had added a lot more to the story -- an aspect that one has seen even with some of Gopalakrishnan’s works which have been based on literary creations -- like, for instance, author Basheer inspired Mathilukal (The Walls) and Paul Zakaria’s novella which was made into Vidheyan (The Servile).
Mysterious Men will be Prakash Babu’s second feature, the first, Fig Fruit and the Wasps, premiered at the Beijing International Film Festival last April.
Unlike, many Indian movies, Prakash Babu’s debut feature was neither loud nor exaggerated. What is more, it is entirely believable, and there is this rare authenticity about it - something that Indian films never care about.
And so what do we have in Fig Fruit and the Wasps? Ninety minutes of imagery which appears to emerge from a colourful palate of paintings- paintings that Prakash Babu had brought alive on his canvases during his days at Tagore’s Abode of Peace, Shantiniketan. He studied art there, like Satyajit Ray had, and a touch of pride is discernible when he talks about the great master whose work once put India on the international map of cinema. Earlier, Prakash Babu was in Ahmedabad where he studied sculpting in addition to painting.
Asked whether his sculpture or painting - mostly oils, sometimes water colours - was abstract, Prakash Babu avers that “life itself is abstract...and this is what I am exploring through cinema too”. There is one shot in his movie of a bottle turning into sand, and “this idea came to me from the Italian painter, Giorgio Morandi (1890 to 1964)”, who spent his entire life painting flowers and landscapes on vases, bowls and bottles. One of his favourite observations was that nothing was more abstract than reality. “I explore this, not just in my paintings, but also in my film,” Prakash Babu says.
Fig Fruit and the Wasps is a great example of this. The movie starts with a car being seen at a distance. We only see its headlights in the beginning, before the car finally comes into our view. It takes a while for the car to be actually visible. There are two people in the car - documentary film makers, Gowri (essayed with admirable subtlety by Bhavani) and Vittal (also an impressive performance by Ranjit Bhaskaran) - out in the countryside to try and meet a classical singer. But when he is not to be found, the two decide to wait for him. They hire a room and while away their time - oblivious to the sounds of the region that by themselves form rhythmic patterns, nay melodious notes.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran covered the Film Bazaar at IFFI.)