Kargil - a unique Tamil movie that experiments with a single actor

Although a one-actor movie may seem unique in the history of Tamil cinema, we have seen such works elsewhere.

 |  3-minute read |   30-07-2017
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Honestly, Tamil cinema cannot be faulted on experimentation and plot novelty. But it often – and invariably – fails in execution, direction and performance. Who could have thought of a film where the camera plays the hero. Or just about. In Mundasuppati, a whole village is paranoid about being photographed, and the story weaves in a brilliant climax.

Here a photographer eloping with his lover on a scooter stops a murderous mob chasing him by pointing, not a gun, but a camera at it. The crowd baying for his blood scoots in fear. And Aadukalam (Playground) turns a tale around rooster fight. Now, we have director Sivaani Senthil all set to release his movie, strangely titled Kargil, a one-actor show!

The war here, he avers, does not happen on the high mountains, not with bombs and bullets – but between a man and a woman. And believe it or not, inside a small car. What may sound really fascinating for film fans in Tamil Nadu is that Kargil has a single actor, played by Jishu Menon. He talks on the telephone while he is driving from Chennai to Bengaluru. Speaking to several characters, including his girlfriend, he addresses and perhaps resolves issues involving his personal affair and his professional assignment.

Interestingly, he gets into a heated argument with his girl that gets accentuated with calls coming in from his boss, a neighbourhood guy and his ex-flame.

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Although a one-actor movie may seem unique in the history of Tamil cinema, we have seen such works elsewhere. The 1964 Hindi movie, Yaadein, had just Sunil Dutt (also produced and directed by him), and the only other actor was Nargis Dutt – who was seen in the shadows very briefly at the end.

Outside India, I remember one film, a French one, that brilliantly captured the one-actor concept. Titled, La Femme Defendue (The Banished Woman, by Philippe Heral), it showed just one actress, Muriel (essayed by the ravishingly beautiful Isabelle Carre) for 90 minutes, and it could manage to keep the highly cinema literate and critical audiences at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival engrossed.

Most of the run-time was allocated to showing the girl's face – which had this enormous ability to express, even mimic, but never for a moment seemed artificial or inappropriate. She is seen talking to her boyfriend, Francois, in a hotel room, he is sitting across her. We never see him, but for a fleeting moment. And then the game of seduction begins – by him, who slowly convinces her to strip. Finally, we see a naked Muriel. There is, of course, a story there that is revealed during the couple's chat.

I remember asking my critic friends from across the globe whether Harel would have been able to keep us engaged had Carre been less striking. Maybe not.

Well, Senthil has a mighty task ahead. For, it is a man who will be in the eye of the camera in his upcoming Kargil. A few songs have been thrown in. Some images of the girl are also to be seen in the stills. A bold move alright.

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Gautaman Bhaskaran Gautaman Bhaskaran @gautamanb

The author is a writer, commentator and movie critic.

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