‘Kayo Kayo Colour?’ movie review: Shaded lives

The spectres of Ahmedabad past and present hover gently over Shahrukhkhan Chavada’s striking debut feature

Updated - August 19, 2023 06:17 pm IST

Published - August 19, 2023 06:15 pm IST

A still from ‘Kayo Kayo Colour?’

A still from ‘Kayo Kayo Colour?’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Frequently in Kayo Kayo Colour? (Which Colour?), a black-and-white debut feature by Shahrukhkhan Chavada, the unexpected takes over. A Muslim family in Ahmedabad is winding up dinner. Recognising that it’s been a particularly morose day, the father turns to his son, smiles, and says, “I’ve got ice-cream.” We sense a familiar cinematic beat, Antonio and Bruno lifting their spirits with a meal of sandwiches in Bicycle Thieves. All of a sudden, though, there is a power cut. The screen fuzzes and dips to black. So much hangs in those two minutes of ordinary darkness — hope and joy, fear and vulnerability.

The scene works because its mood is not settled. Like the great and playful masters, Chavada doesn’t trade in easy pathos. His film, which premiered at Rotterdam fest earlier this year and was recently screened at the 71st Melbourne International Film Festival, tracks a day in the life of a poor marginalised family in a cramped neighbourhood in Gujarat. It’s a linear and vivid work, shot with non-professional actors in the Kalupur area of Ahmedabad. Curiously, Chavada, 28, gets his first name from the Bollywood superstar – a stunning revelation, given how decidedly un-Bollywood his debut film looks.

Kayo Kayo Colour? (Hindi, Gujarati)
Director: Shahrukhkhan Chavada
Cast: Samina Shaikh, Imtiyaz Shaikh, Yushra Shaikh, Fahim Shaikh
Run-time: 96 minutes
Storyline: The daily struggles (and minor joys) of a marginalised working-class family in a cramped neighbourhood in Ahmedabad

Hindi films of all persuasions tend to hector us about the facts and fictions of ordinary Muslim lives (this is especially true of the last ten years). Chavada gives us its details, its rhythms. The film opens with the call for Fajr, the first namaz of day. Raziya (Samina Shaikh) makes an early start as her husband, Razzak (a movingly naturalistic Imtiyaz Shaikh), sleeps on. She then wakes her two children, Ruba (Yushra Shaikh) and Faiz (Fahim Shaikh), and readies them for school. The kids walk down to a nearby madrasa, recite verses, return. Though the household is soon abuzz with movements, their lives aren’t moving. We learn that Razzak has recently quit a job – it was too far and ill-paying, he reasons – and is planning to buy an autorickshaw. He needs Rs. 15,000 to fix what sounds like a charitable deal.

A still from ‘Kayo Kayo Colour?’

A still from ‘Kayo Kayo Colour?’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Narrating the story of a ghettoized Muslim family in Gujarat (the film is set in 2016), Chavada appears in no rush to provide sociopolitical context to his tale. In fact, without the English subtitles picking out ‘riots’ and ‘2002’ for a lay audience, there isn’t much to lean on. Instead, a lot is said through a series of small but striking disparities. Razzak’s parents live separately in a derelict one-room; his sister, who’s moved up in life, nests in a swanky apartment. The rickshaw Razzak wants to buy but clearly cannot afford is a ‘2014 model’ – a morbid wink. The film is interested in an Ahmedabad of both past and present: pyramid schemes and Jio connections now serenade its urban poor.

Kayo Kayo Colour? is filmed indie-style with a mix of static and handheld shots. At one point, the frame tilts abruptly and reorients itself. Elsewhere a frolicking child bumps into the camera and runs some distance with it. These imperfections lend a rare kind of life to Chavada’s film. I’d also presume they resulted from practical choices and limitations, rather than matters of symbolic intent. The few images that do feel that way are the close-ups of craggy, exposed brick walls.

The film communicates a lot through the notion of play. The title comes from a girly pastime of calling out colours at random and locating them in one’s vicinity—observed in dull monochrome, it becomes a metaphor for marginalised lives. Visiting her rich cousins with her grandmother, Ruba is allowed to ride an expensive-looking bike — the happiest moment of her day. Chavada understands the listlessness of a strained childhood. There is something dystopic about his film about a specific time and place: a ball kicked around on a concrete street, a goat chewing on junk where grass should have been.

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