Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s Frog explores the inter-play between life and death.

To cite a Bergman metaphor, life is locked in a ruthless game of chess with death. The interplay between zest for life and the stark certainty that closes the lid on it has always fascinated filmmakers. Frog, a short fiction film of 20 minutes duration, essays this closely-fought battle, training the camera on the plight of man teetering between a strong urge to die and an even greater desire to claw his way back to dear life.

Through its razor-sharp portrayal, the film probes what prompts humans on the verge of taking their own lives to suddenly muster a frenzied resolve to dominate and live.

“Man is the only creature known to commit suicide. But death fascinates him in a way as no other experience of life has,” says the film’s scriptwriter and director Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, who was Viji Thampi’s assistant.

Presented by Kazhcha Film Forum, a collective formed by a group of film-loving youngsters in 2001, Frog is also a product of friendship. Nudged by the promise shown by the previous outings of Sanal – Athisaya Lokam, which raised existential questions, and Parole, on the imminent departure of a child to the Gulf after a brief vacation in his native village – his fellow bloggers, Facebook contacts, old pals… everyone chipped in to support the making of the film. The cast, crew and technicians worked for free, while a few friends pooled in the money required for its production and post-production.

Suspense, key to any road movie, is integral to Frog’s narrative. Death and the sexual politics of power lurk about its frames from the time the film opens with an M-80 scooter, laden with a batch of poultry, heads for the local market. A radio fitted on the blood-stained motorbike blares old film songs. The scooterist, almost an agent of tantalising and mysterious death, is waved down by a nervous boy to hitch a ride uphill. His bike had broken down. The ride along the road with sharp bends, hairpin curves and surrounding wilderness is unnerving and subtly eventful. Ironically though, things take a violent turn as the road straightens out.

Frog performs a deft manoeuvre in role reversal, with certainties ensconced in life whilst wilful death resembles an unlikely possibility. In a way, life in the film is so sure of itself that it beats death at its own game.

Krishnan Balakrishnan and Ratul Sree play the film’s protagonists. Reji Prasad has cranked the camera. Editing is by Jayesh. Frog is based on a story jointly written by Sanal and Harikishore Surendran.