Why Indian cinema needs films like An Off-Day Game
The award-winning movie bluntly questions social injustice.
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Friends are a true representation of the society. Good friends would not want to make their behaviour formal. They would be natural when they open up to the others in the gang about politics, society, history, relationships and egos. They would argue over both serious and trivial matters and try to get under each others' skin, yet every difference is ironed out at the end of the day, thanks to their strong camraderie.
Directed by Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, the Malayalam movie An Off-Day Game (Ozhivudivasathe Kali) tells the story of a few friends who go to a new hangout on an election day to booze and make merry. Strong but sporadic rains have a strong influence on the mood of the movie.
Hidden not so deep in the storyline is a serious plot of social injustice and discrimination. The friends from the most upper and seemingly the most lower castes have better social sense and understanding, especially towards women.
The upper caste person does not really have a name other than his surname Thirumeni, which itself is his caste name. The lower caste person is given the name Dasan, which is a symbolic representation of the servile obedience others expect from people of his caste.A still from the movie.
Dasan needs to do all things his friends cannot do, however tough they may seem to be. Thirumeni is seen ready to go out in the rains in an attempt to buy more liquor, while Dasan is all glued to the TV screen to know what happens in the election. Both show glimpses of their care for friends and the society.
Except these two, all the others try to flirt with a woman who does household chores for a living. One of them says he doesn't want to take another chance because the woman is obviously not interested. Yet another one, the richest, attempts to do so repeatedly.
The contrasting change in a man when his wife gets a fleeting mention in the discussion is so naturally shot. People tend to talk anything about other women, but they get agigated when women in their own families are even remotely mentioned.
Though almost all of them have equal importance in the story, the ones who are completely dissimilar in nature are the richest and the black. Finally, the friends set out to play a game before they leave the place. The caste system, although inadvertent in nature, pops into the eyes through the role play in this game. Each one of them accidentally gets to play a role the bigger society wants them to play in real life.
The game is what the film is all about, and the way the symbolic game evolves and ends elevates the whole mood of the movie to a different level in the last few minutes. Although liquor makes them do what they did eventually, the inherent aggression and supremacy that are so naturally associated with their roles in the game would make them overlook their wrongs and enjoy the game to the hilt.
The methods they choose - accusation, bribery, verdict and being completely unmindful of the oppressed - also make out a strong case for social injustice and hypocrisy, which contradicts their own past opinions on similar issues.
The movie had a very long and uninteresting opening scene. But in hindsight, that set the tone for what was to come. The film has already bagged several awards. Any flip sides in the film can, understandably, be attributed to the very low production budget.
Attempts like An Off-Day Game give meaning to the experience called cinema. I think that sums up in one sentence, what I was trying to say about this film.