Movies

‘Run Kalyani’ focusses on the romance of everyday living, of grief and grit, says filmmaker Geetha J

A still from ‘Run Kalyani’

A still from ‘Run Kalyani’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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The director says that the Malayalam movie gently delves into the nuances of gender dynamics and contemporary social issues

Post the premiere of Run Kalyani at the Kolkata International Film Festival on November 11, its film director Geetha J was in an exuberant mood as accolades came pouring in for the woman-centric film, her first feature film.

“I always knew the movie would make an impact but the way the viewers came forward to express their appreciation about different aspects of the film came as a pleasant surprise. Though I was short of funds, I was insistent on not stinging on production values and that conviction has stood in good stead,” says the mediaperson-turned-filmmaker.

Geetha J

Geetha J   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Spread over four days, the film, scripted and directed by her, is about a young cook who works in three houses in Thiruvananthapuram, including hers, and her interactions with residents in the three dwellings. Shot completely in the capital city, Run Kalyani came to fruition many years after Geetha wrote a prize-winning script — A Certain Slant of Light — that won the Goteborg International Film Festival’s development fund in 2008, which was about three sisters set in Kerala in the period between the seventies and the nineties. Since filming it would involve a huge budget, Geetha searched high and low for a producer and also tried her luck in vain at some of the film bazaars held on the sidelines of major film festivals in India.

“In those days, there were hardly any women making films in Kerala. Moreover, producers were reluctant to make a movie about three women. There were a few who wanted me to make it about three brothers. I was at a loose end regarding my film but I was busy producing and directing documentaries and short films. However, I never stopped writing scripts,” she adds.

A still from ‘Run Kalyani’

A still from ‘Run Kalyani’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

That is when some of her friends advised her to make a low-budget film and get going with her movie. “So, that is what I did. A few of my friends and family members pitched in and the film got rolling with a new script, that of Run Kalyani,” she says.

On the go

Giving a glimpse of the storyline that begins in an agraharam in the capital city, Geetha says the film trails Kalyani from the time she wakes up in her rented house in the agraharam and makes her way to a high-rise of a bachelor. Then she works in a house inhabited by a joint family. And by evening, she returns to her home.

“This goes on for three days and, on the surface, her day looks monotonous but no two days are the same. There are several interesting interactions with the members of the household, and there are visitors too. In the meantime, she also acts as a go-between, carrying poems written by Nirmala, the young housewife in the joint family, to the resident in the flat. The complexities go on increasing subtly every day till it all explodes on the fourth day. It is a pattern film about people keeping hope alive in oppressive circumstances, a realistic theme that focusses on the romance of everyday living, of grief and grit,” she narrates.

Making the cut
  • Geetha used to be a print journalist who worked with leading dailies before joining the electronic media. Geetha relocated from Kerala in 2001. She shot her first documentary, Woman with a Video Camera on the female gaze in 2005.
  • She made her mark as a documentary filmmaker and producer along with her husband, Ian McDonald, and their films have made it to several prestigious international film festivals.
  • Algorithms (2012) is about young blind chess players from India.
  • Freedom (2017) is a four-screen film installation on the legacy of Martin Luther King. This is their first film for the gallery space.
  • Who is Europe (2018) is a split-screen documentary that explores the idea of Europe.
  • Geetha has also directed Seescapes (2014), Akam (2007) and A Short Film About Nostalgia.

She adds that by juxtaposing spaces, performances and ideas, she seeks to discuss social issues and gender dynamics. This pattern-building is evident in the narrative, music and images. “And, eventually, the pattern is broken,” she laughs.

A native of the city, Geetha points out that she was keen on making a film in Thiruvananthapuram as she is familiar with the place and also to rejuvenate its history as a centre of filmmaking. Most of the lead actors also hail from the city. “It is a place with a rich and unique culture and I have many friends I could reach out to for my film. Again, I was lucky when I found my lead character, Kalyani, without much difficulty. A theatre actor, Garggi Ananthan caught my attention the minute I saw a video clip of hers. The rest of the characters are also essayed by some veteran theatre-persons and some newcomers,” she adds.

Poet Meera Nair enacts Nirmala, while theatre actor and Kathakali artiste Ramesh Varma plays Vijayan and newcomer Manoj Menon appears as Raghavan. Veteran actor Madhu, Sathi Premji, Thara Kalyan, Nandu and Anoop Mohandas are also in the cast.

Iconic piece of music

Geetha points out that even the music by Sreevalsan J Menon follows the pattern of the narrative as she wanted the background score to be inspired by European composer Ravel’s ‘Bolero’. And that is what accentuates the story of the film that has no songs. “Sreevalsan has redefined that iconic piece with Indian instruments. The result is a unique soundscape that enhances every scene in the film,” she adds. The camera has been cranked by Madhu Neelakandan, while editing has been done by B Ajithkumar.

Although Geetha is happy with the way her film has turned out, she makes no attempt to mask her disappointment at the film being not selected for the International Film Festival of Kerala. “However, I hope to screen the film in the city because I know that many of my crew members and cast are waiting to see the film on screen and I don’t want to disappoint them,” she says.

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 12:17:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/geetha-js-run-kalyani-revolves-around-the-life-of-a-young-cook/article29971252.ece

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