Sunday, June 3, 2012

The K File – A bold take on the Kasab conundrum



26/11/2008 - A day that would forever be etched in the memory of Indians. On that day, lots of disbelieving eyes were glued to the television set, witnessing the rape and humiliation of their commercial capital. The shock that such a full-fledged terrorist attack could be executed, that their country was so vulnerable to the intelligence agency of their neighbour, was perhaps more than the horror of the actual events. That day, they came to know the name of Muhammad Ajmal Kasab, for the very first time. Ajmal, the 20 year old, belonging to the Kasab(butcher) tribe had indeed justified his name to a sinister extent. His young age drew no sympathies. The people detested him, hoping for a quick and exemplary punishment.
The scenario three and a half years later -  Kasab had been found guilty and sentenced to death numerous times by several courts in India, the latest being Bombay High Court on 21 February 2011. On 30 July 2011, he moved to the Supreme Court of India challenging this sentence and managed to obtain a stay order on the previous verdict. These three and a half years have perhaps been the most comfortable time in his life. Staying under the protection of the government, getting his choicest meals in jail, this was a life Lashkar-a-Taiba could never give him.  The question that has naturally sprung up is that why, even after all these years has this brute not been brought to justice? What is the reason for this delay, when the nature of the convictions are nothing but certain? There have been speculations. Is it India’s penchant for fairness, even in the face of such an appalling crime? Or is it something deeper, the desperate effort by the government to maintain its secular image, a deliberate inaction to secure the vote bank of a particular community. Whatever be it, it has resulted in an immense frustration for the Indian citizens.
It is from this frustration (or rather because of it?) that Oorvazi Irani’s short film ‘The K File’ takes off. From this splice in space time in the territory of fact, the film takes a leap into the realm of fiction and spins off an alternate history of our contemporary times.
The film begins with the footages of 26/11 and the verdict of death penalty for Asab(the counterpart of Kasab in the film, played by Sanjay Nath). Next we see Asab in jail, where he speaks in a mocking tone about his last wish of having mutton biryani. This is a tricky reference to the fact that Kasab is being given his choicest food in jail, as well as his confidence that despite the death sentences, he will be hanging around for long.


Next we see the home minister(Tushar Ishwar) in conversation with a judge. In this segment, he describes his dilemma and the tricky position he is into, since he wants to bring Asab to justice without endangering the Muslim vote bank. Throughout the sequence, the camera is focussed on him. This monologue like treatment is perhaps intended to stress the fact that the onus of handling the actual matter and of being accountable to his party and the public lies on the home minister alone and the person(s) giving opinions on what could be done have hardly any significance in this context. When the minister negates every opinion, we come to understand the fix he is into.
With the passing of months, the helplessness of the minister and Asab going through a train of thoughts are depicted. Asab’s coming to a decision is portrayed though a stiffness in facial expression and a shadow movement on the wall. He bribes the minister with information on ISI in exchange for his freedom. After his phone conversation with the minister, we witness the minister’s thoughtful expression. It seems that the he is perplexed. However, this is only a red herring, as we find out later.



In the jail sequence, the wasp sitting on the minister’s hand sets the stage for the drama to follow. When the minister appears to be tacking a wasp that got into his clothes, thereby exposing the gun in his coat pocket, the buzzing soundtrack makes the audience a part of the deception along with Asab. He snatches the gun, holds the minister on gunpoint and tries to make an escape. In the final scene, we see Asab being shot through the glass of the car window. This is portrayed through a bullet time sequence (that is generally accompanied with a heartbeat, no exceptions here) and a change from natural colour to a colourless tone (a de-saturation or draining of colour), which are both effective in portraying Asab’s approaching death. When Asab tries to shoot the minister in turn and finds the gun not loaded, he finally realizes the trap he has played into.  The person shooting Asab is deliberately masked, giving a point-of-view shot thereby placing the audience in the role of the shooter. Indeed, the shooter is an embodiment of the collective hatred of Indians towards (K)Asab. The minister gives a sly smile, befitting his intelligence, and the film ends with a close up of the bullet hole in the glass. 
For a 10minute film, this has quite a number of elements related to cinematography. Martin Xavier’s camera work is commendable. The dimly lit sequences in the jail and Asab’s shadow on the wall as well as the de-saturation effect towards the end and the close up of the bullet hole are very well executed. There is an interesting aspect in the camera angle with which Asab is portrayed. Towards the beginning, he is captured from a low angle. As the film progresses, the camera moves up culminating in a crane shot when he gets into the car along with the minister. This hints towards a gradual loss in the significance of Asab, from the audiences’ point of view. While towards the beginning, he had seemed a gargantuan presence, towards the end he is reduced to a plaything in the hands of the minister. (This was hinted at in Oorvazi’s Interview on making the film) However, this is not apparent until one has witnessed the complete plot and therefore requires multiple viewing to appreciate.
Ayan Dey’s soundtrack is perfectly in sync with the pace of the movie, especially the use of a fast paced track in the climax sequence and the violin in the final sequence with the minister smiling. Besides doing the background score, Ayan has also handled the editing for this film.
Both the actors have done justice to their roles. One aspect of the film is that is it quasi-realistic, hence it does not strive to align itself with the reality. Hence, the character of Asab is not exactly Kasab, but is rather a personification of our projection of a terrorist as amoral, fanatic and without remorse. Sanjay Nath carries off this archetype brilliantly. His expressions emphasize the heartlessness of a terrorist throughout. He makes the sudden switch from a defensive to an offensive mode very believable. Tushar Iswar looks sharp and blends perfectly with his role of a responsible minister as well as a political mastermind. His smile in the final sequence is very measured, it aptly reflects a satisfaction of beating Asab at his own game, rather than joy or relief.
Oorvazi, as a director prefers the surrealist and avant-garde genre.  From this standpoint, 26/11 was a different and challenging subject for her to make a film on. However, her foray into the thriller genre (I prefer to call this film a thriller rather than a political drama) has been immensely rewarding. She has done a lot of groundwork for the film through the process of interviewing common people, a senior crime investigation journalist, as well as the victims of 26/11, recordings of which have been used as promotional videos for the film. I remember telling her in light humour, that I have never seen this kind of an hour long promotion for a ten minute film. But in reality, I admired her sincerity in getting immersed into the subject, which is a preliminary criterion for any filmmaker, yet which is seldom practiced. Her earnest efforts have paid off. She indeed holds a mirror to our contemporary times, highlighting its stark realities, through her quasi-realist film.
The script by celebrated novelist/screenwriter Farrukh Dhondy is certainly a winner. The representation of the dichotomy of Asab; a man without principles, someone who wants to betray ISI in exchange for his life, yet someone who screams ‘Jihad Zindabad’ when he secures a gun, was interesting. The conceptualisation of the home minister as a young, intelligent and thoughtful person was also very apt. However, the script really stands out for the sheer brilliance of its idea.
And finally it would be a crime not to make a mention Sorab Irani, Oorvazi’s father and the producer of this film who was responsible for bringing this script to her and supporting the film throughout with his constant encouragement. With his years of experience as a veteran producer, he had the vision to recognize the immense potentiality of Farrukh’s script. According to Oorvazi, this film would not have been made, if not for him.


The best thing about this film is that it reflects the current political scenario in India, that is perhaps responsible for the delay in Kasab’s punishment(thus giving voice to the common people’s speculations), yet refrains from making any statement against it; rather comes up with a bold solution within the feasibility of the current framework. There lies the USP of the film and the script.
In the end, it must be said, that in spite of a good script, this film would not have been so well executed without the efforts of all the people associated with the film and above all the director, who knit it together, with passion and precision.






‘The K File’ has been released on the Internet on 28th May, 2012 and is available in the following youtube link

4 comments:

  1. Thanks Riddhiman
    Loved the indepth Review ! and the line so well said "From this splice in space time in the territory of fact, the film takes a leap into the realm of fiction and spins off an alternate history of our contemporary times" well said particularly like the choice of the word 'leap'

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    1. You are most Welcome Oorvazi.
      I am glad that my humble effort was liked by both the director and the producer :). Hope to see you making more of such good films

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  2. Tremendous thought effort must have gone into this article - and the end product justifies the same :-).
    "The shock that such a full-fledged .... was perhaps more than the horror of the actual events." - You're bang on. As Oorvazi has already highlighted, "From this splice in space time ... realm of fiction" is a fine sentence indeed :-). The analysis of each significant camera treatment/angle selection - very observant of you! I had missed most in my single watch of the film. Thanks for bringing in light the effort that went in the making of this film..
    But then, a note about the film itself - for such earnest endeavor and a very-catchy plot, the script often looked amateurish. More professionalism could have gone into it to enhance the entire viewing experience.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, the very first time on this blog :) I am getting encouraged to write more. As for the film, I am sure the director will be considering your viewpoint

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