Run Kalyani review: An unhurried, empowering and rewarding film
Run Kalyani makes efficient use of its 100-minute runtime to tell its story in its own time
Run Kalyani takes place in the present, but it carries the vibe of something from a much older era. Journalist-turned-filmmaker Geetha J makes an impressive debut with a film that takes its own time to tell its story. Its characters have a goal, along with a multitude of conflicted emotions. But the film is more about their journey than the destination. It's a journey that demands a fair amount of patience.
As the film opens, the protagonist Kalyani (Garggi Anantham), a house cook, is reaching under her aunt's (Sathi Premji) bed to examine a box full of items that belong, presumably, to a dancer. We assume that her aunt, who is now bed-ridden, was this dancer. This is just one of the many character details that the viewer has to fill in themselves because this is a film that is not keen on spoonfeeding every piece of information.
It is why I never bothered to know how a middle-aged man and middle-aged woman, both living in different buildings, managed to initiate a love affair through poems, or how Kalyani became their messenger. The middle-aged woman, Nirmala (Meera Nair) has been enduring her husband's daily abuse. It has become a ritual. The entire film is staged like a ritual. It is a style previously seen in films like Asha Jaoar Majhe (Labour of Love) or The Scent of Green Papaya. Through one character's monotonous daily routine, we get to see those of others. Nirmala yearns for a better life, and so does Kalyani. Perhaps this is why the two are sympathetic towards each other. They share a genuine bond, even though they don't talk much. It evokes Kalyani's interactions with her aunt.
The middle-aged bachelor, Vijayan (Ramesh Varma) is also nice to Kalyani. They don't talk much either. But we get the impression that he wants to be her benefactor. He is single, he is in love with Nirmala, and he doesn't care much about money. We have all the information we need. Geetha keeps the dialogues in the film to a bare minimum, relying mostly on visuals to tell her story. Where a character resides, or what delicacy they can make, can sometimes be used to indicate their identity. Most of the film takes place in just two locations — the agraharam where Kalyani lives and the posh neighbourhood of her employers. Kalyani doesn't get time to explore the city, and neither do we.
It helps that Run Kalyani makes efficient use of its 100-minute runtime. It would perhaps have overstayed its welcome had it been longer than that. I did not have all the answers after the film was done — like whether the young writer who 'lives' with Kalyani was a figment of her imagination or not. What came before or after didn't matter to me. What really mattered was seeing certain characters inspire us by taking decisions that could save them from their miserable existence. Isn't that what we all want?
(Run Kalyani is being streamed on Moviesaints as part of the New York Indian Film Festival that runs till August 2)