Killa Review: Can cinematographers make good films? This nostalgic film proves they can
Killa is idyllic without being indulgent
By Kalpana Nair
I don't know about you but I watch the films of cinematographers turned directors with some trepidation.
The most recent turkey which reaffirmed this belief was the gorgeous yet utterly inert Transcendence which was directed by Wally Pfister who had previously shot Christopher's Nolan's Inception, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.
Others like Barry Sonnenfeld, who shot many films for the Coen brothers, have had more success but mostly at the box office. Let's not kid ourselves, his Men in Black trilogy is unlikely to go down in history as an artistic triumph. There are also exceptions like Santosh Sivan, but mostly it's not a track record that inspires confidence.
Thankfully Avinash Arun's (who also shot Masaan which played at Cannes this year) directorial debut Killa is the best answer to the question, "Can a cinematographer make a great film?" They can and he has.
As films like Fandry and Vihir have shown, the Marathi new wave has a definite fascination for childhood as a motif. So it is with Killa as well. 11-year- old Chinmay Kale (Archit Deodhar) and his mother (Amruta Subhash) move from Pune to a small town on the Konkan coast. Chinmay's father passed away a year back and his mother, a government employee is forced to relocate after she gets a promotion which also entails a transfer.
Her quiet grief casts a permanent shadow on her face but she is hoping the change of scene will do her son good and bring him out of his shell. But Chinmay, uprooted, friendless and grieving is not thrilled about it. He is the kind of kid we rarely see on-screen.
Earnest and hesitant, with his hair parted straight as if with a ruler and shirt firmly tucked in. A child of few words whose brow is permanently knitted in thought. You can see why the thought of a new school and its denizens fills him with dread. This is not a kid who makes friends easily.
Killa follows Chinmay and his mother as they try to start afresh and settle in.
Now as adults when we think of childhood, we tend to romanticize is it as a time of few responsibilities and struggles, but Avinash Arun directs Killa as if being a child was a recent and more textured memory for him. (He's only 29 so maybe that's true.)
The film yanks us back to when we were young and reintroduces us to a world of exams, bullies, Camlin pencil boxes and cycles. Refreshingly, as it is in the real world, the kids that fill Killa are not beyond streaks of extreme cruelty and arrogance.
So, we meet Bandya (Parth Bhalerao), the most entertaining of the lot when he is about to assault a poor dog with a rag drenched in kerosene. Another one, Yuvraj (Gawrish Gawande) is the leader of the pack because he is clearly the wealthiest and has the coolest bike and watch. It's not that different from the adult world if you think about it.
Arun has a cinematographer's gift for being profound even when the dialogue is seemingly mundane. Killa is idyllic without being indulgent. It left me with a deep ache for my childhood. Not because it had passed. But because I am now unable to remember it more vividly, warts and all.
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