The innocence that is called ‘mental’ – Nandalala

Disclaimer: I did not watch the film in a theatre. I did not also watch it in one go. I am constrained by a 13.3” screen and a 24 hour break in this review. So wherever you think I am wrong, we can discuss! :)

Nandalala was recommended to me by Arul, an old classmate of mine. He also said he looks forward to know what I think of films, which obviously gave me an ego boost. I decided to watch the film and I had to watch it on my computer as it was too late in Bangalore to watch in a theatre. I strongly believe it is unfair to review a film unless one has watched it in a theatre. That’s why the disclaimer!

With a whole bunch of new faces (including Mysskin’s) in the film, it was a delight that there was no baggage to anybody in the film. It is a story of two innocent people looking for their respective mothers for reasons that make sense only to themselves. The boy keeps saying he wants to meet his mother only to hug her and kiss her once. But the not-so-mature man (played by Mysskin himself) wants to meet his Mother to slap her on the face for abandoning him. Reasons, that we will know in the end, are only perspectives.

The film is a collection of wonderful moments. The boy’s character has been carved so beautifully that one gets a sense of pride every time he overcomes hassles through mere wit. Keeping money in his socks, speaking to the Policeman in English, taking lifts from generous women, crying at the right times and laughing too, fitting himself in any vehicle that lets him in, the boy is fantastic. He almost makes you trust he is right and can manage!

Bhaskar Mani, the mentally challenged adult who holds his pants in his hands until half the film, personifies innocence. You know for a fact that he is harmless, genuine and does not understand much of the ‘big bad world’. His character is so well scripted, he almost makes the viewer want to be so innocent and devoid of the cunningness we possess to survive where we are. (Damn! How much had I always wanted to delete such lines off reviews!)

The journey, the people they meet (the good, bad and the ugly ones), the vehicles they take, the distances they walk, they environment they endure, they beds they sleep in, the snake that crawls next to it, the problems of the ‘real world’ that they see from the POV of pure innocence and every other scene is crafted with love. Love for cinema.

The characterisation of the three women still fascinates me. Agi (Akhilesh, the kid)’s mother is someone who chooses not to have any contact with her son, who is perceived as the bad mother. Bhaskar Mani’s mother loses mental health herself after leaving her son in the asylum. She has a song dedicated to her and she is shown as the good mother. Then there is a woman who is pushed to being a sex worker, changes in the end and takes the place of Agi’s mother (shown symbolically through Agi kissing her instead of his mother). This woman is the born again good mother. I can’t pass a judgement of stereotyping here. But somehow this does not settle well with me. Worse, the story of the bad mother is hidden behind music. I find it rather unfair.

In conclusion, I am not a fan of closed ends. The film ended for me the moment Bhaskar Mani met his mother.

The film constantly brought back memories of Majid Majidi’s Baran, Children of heaven and the like not for reasons of style or narrative, but only for the joy (with a tinge of melancholy) that it made me feel at the end. If world class is what we are looking for in Tamil films, this one is there!

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The innocence that is called ‘mental’ – Nandalala

4 thoughts on “The innocence that is called ‘mental’ – Nandalala

  1. Hmm nice read. But did you hear or read that it’s based on Takeshi Kitano’s Kikujiro. The main storyline was ripped off including the individual characters except for the back story of Bhaskar Mani. But I enjoyed the movie for the acting and the music though :)

    1. Yeah. If my memory serves me right, Mysskin himself had mentioned once that this film is “inspired” by a Japanese film. I am not so sure about the extent of the inspiration.

      For people who haven’t watched Japanese or Iranian films, this would be a very fresh feeling, wouldn’t it? Just the idea of watching a film without fights, songs, equilibrium-disequilibrium-equilibrium kind of a story line, respect for prostitutes and I can keep going. I am glad I watched something refreshing in Tamil. Very new. Very fresh.

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