The story came from wherever the camera went: Director Rahul Riji Nair on his third film, Kalla Nottam
The filmmaker says Kalla Nottam is told entirely from the perspective of a small digital camera wielded by its principal characters
Two cinema-obsessed kids steal a digital camera from a provision store intending to return it once they finish shooting a movie. Their satirical interactions soon give way to darker situations when one of the kids inadvertently ends up in the middle of a moral policing situation. It’s a classic case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time leading to a loss of innocence.
This is Kerala State Award-winning filmmaker Rahul Riji Nair’s (Ottamuri Velicham) third feature in a nutshell. Titled Kalla Nottam, the entire film is told from the point-of-view of the kids’ camera whose perspective shifts depending on the person wielding it, and makes one question who the actual voyeur is — the audience or the characters?
A 75-min-long coming-of-age drama, Kalla Nottam was shot in under a week. It was shown at a private screening recently.
Kalla Nottam, produced by Lijo Joseph, Sujith Warrier and executive produced by Samir Sarkar, can be more or less classified under the recently coined ‘screen life’ genre popularised by independent Hollywood films such as Hardcore Henry and Searching. Rahul came up with the idea on a whim and was taken by surprise when it turned out well.
“Initially, it was just the idea of the kids making a movie, but then it evolved into something else entirely on the third day of filming. We cracked a proper story only then,” says Rahul, who got the confidence to forge ahead after being heavily impressed by the performances of his child actors Vasudev Sajeesh Marar, Suryadev Sajeesh Marar, and Ansu Maria Thomas.
The grown-ups are played by Rahul’s frequent collaborators Renjith Sekhar Nair and Vinitha Koshy, in addition to Vijay Induchoodan, PJ Unnikrishnan, Vishnu Premkumar, and Srikanth Mohan Pattathil. The actors’ organic performances, which are at times peppered with dark humour, is the main highlight.
Since the entire film was unscripted, Rahul says it was initially a challenge to figure out the overall duration, because the events take place over just a few hours. Rahul was aided by cinematographer Tobin Thomas, who sometimes adjusted himself to the kids’ heights to seamlessly capture the action. Appu Bhattathiri handled the film's editing.
“The story came from wherever the camera went. There was no space for the characters’ backstories, music, or shot divisions,” says Rahul. “We thought of ways to create drama without all those. Also, as there were several long takes, everything relied on the choreography of the camera. We were able to give it a proper shape only in the final edit.”