Friday Review

When fact and fantasy blur the mind

Jithu Johny in a still from Zahir

Jithu Johny in a still from Zahir   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Actor and director Sidhartha Siva surprised viewers with his debut film 101 Chodyangal that went on to win the National Awards for the Best Film of a Director and Best Child Artiste. Now he is back with Zahir, a film that could not be more different from the warm and quirky 101 Chodyangal, which delved into a child’s world. This time around Sidhartha turns the cameras on the subject of women’s insecurities.

Sidhartha’s Zahir was screened at the Busan International Film Festival last month in the category ‘Window on Asian Cinema’ and was the only entry from Malayalam. It has been selected to the International Film Festival of Kerala 2014 in the competition section.

“The film deals with a subject that is not new, but has relevance at any point of time in history – women’s insecurity and their apprehensions. It is only that different people have handled the subject in their own way,” says Sidhartha, who has written the story and screenplay of the movie.

A gang rape and its aftermath set the backdrop for the movie that unravels the mind of a scarred youngster, Pratheeshmon K., who is unable to come to terms with the rape and murder of his classmate and sweetheart Ashalatha. Sidhartha has woven a dark tale with several threads of the theme drawn from current events that have rocked Kerala and India. Pratheeshmon loses his sanity after Ashalatha’s gory death and though he recovers, his traumas manifest years later when he comes across a female mannequin and finds Ashalatha in her.

“Even the title reflects Prateesh’s state of mind. ‘Zahir’, in Arabic, is someone or something that occupies our every thought once we come into contact with it, eventually ending up as an obsession for us. In this case, Pratheesh can’t get over his love for Ashalatha,” explains Sidhartha.

“Even as the film talks about his love for Ashalatha, we are also trying to show that when a woman is victimised, it is not only she who suffers, but also the people who are associated with her. The film portrays the grief of a woman through a man,” he adds. The film has newcomers playing important roles, which include Jithu Johny, a theatre artiste, who plays Pratheesh. Jijoy P.R., Malathy Menon and Dileesh Philip are the other actors.

Sidhartha says that the theme had been playing in his mind for long. Travelling with this film to Busan has been an enriching experience for the director. “I was happy and excited by the reception it got in Busan despite the language barrier. At the question-answer session, the audience really surprised me with their interpretation of the theme and the characters and their analysis. The festival is a treat in itself with so much variety on offer for the viewers. I am not a regular when it comes to film festivals. I attended the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) and the IFFK, only because of 101 Chodyangal.”

Coming to 101 Chodyangal, which won him rave reviews, Sidhartha says that you can’t compare the experience while filming it to that of Zahir. “While filming 101 Chodyangal, I was in a totally different frame of mind. And contrary to what many people feel, I was not burdened by any expectation when shooting Zahir,” he says.

Sidhartha, who became a familiar face for Malayalis with his roles in films such as Thirakkatha, Ritu, Ivar Vivahitharayaal, and recently Vikramadityan, has always preferred to stay behind the camera.

Rather, he would like to concentrate on his research in cultural studies from MG University. “Whatever I am doing is part of my studies, I am happy working at this pace,” he says.

Meanwhile, he has started working on his new movie but chooses to remain mum on it. “Let it remain a secret,” he says.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2020 5:03:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/siddharth-siva-zahir-iffk-2014/article6614756.ece

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