Gypsy movie review: Jiiva's film oscillates between hard-hitting social commentary and a romantic musical
Gypsy, a movie about religion and tolerance, comes at an opportune time
Gypsy, a movie about religion and tolerance, comes at an opportune time, when the nation has just witnessed one of the most bitter communal riots of the last few years, that has left over 40 dead and hundreds injured. The Raju Murugan film has been in a long battle with the censors, but finally released on 6 March. It explores the question of whether religion can ever be separated from politics, especially in India. Murugun has shot the film in various parts of the country, from Kashmir to Varanasi, Goa, and Kerala, and the film has some stunning visuals and soothing music.
The hero of the film, called Gypsy (Jiiva), does not belong to a particular religion, language, area or caste. Instead, he is a singer who moves around the country, in a nomadic style, with his performing white horse, Che (the director’s ode to Che Guevara). They perform in various temples, churches, and mosques across India. Gypsy, who can speak in multiple languages, likes his freedom and wants to "fly like a free bird".
While travelling, Gypsy reaches Nagore in southern Tamil Nadu, a predominantly Muslim area. This is where he meets Waheeda (Natasha Singh). To Waheeda, Gypsy represents ‘freedom’ that she is denied by her fundamentalist father and local Jamath strongman Muthalippu (Malayalam director Lal Jose in a cameo). It is how they get together and how their lives are thrown apart by ongoing communal riots, and the hatred and distrust between the two religions, that makes up the crux of the movie.
Jiiva, as Gypsy, is stunning and has put in a lot of effort to make the character look convincing. He shines in this difficult non-conventional role. Natasha Singh as Waheeda is lovely and expressive. Lal Jose has delivered a gripping performance as the anguished fundamentalist. Sunny Wayne as the communist district secretary is aptly cast. The music of Santosh Narayanan is vibrant and interesting.
However, the cuts by the censors weaken the movie, making it lose impact. The riot scenes have been toned down and visually the portions have been made black and white which is jarring. To combat the censors, Murugun has even released two of the chopped scenes on YouTube but is let down by a weak script that lacks depth.
Gypsy suffers due to the cuts, losing its relevance. Murugun, who in the past, has made award-winning movies like Joker, seems to be undecided here on what tone to take and what movie he wants to make: a hard-hitting social commentary or a romantic musical.
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