Kala is a tale of fear: Rohith VS
The director opens up about the Tovino Thomas-starrer, which is among the year's most anticipated films
Rohith VS is one of those contemporary Malayalam filmmakers who has managed to make each of his films distinct from the other. After Adventures of Omanakuttan and Iblis, both quite experimental and miles apart in tone and content, the filmmaker is back with his third film, Kala.
The eye-catching teaser released a few weeks ago gives a clear indication of something raw and gritty. The one-minute footage has impressed viewers with its ingenious editing. Some viewers pointed out the editing similarities to the acclaimed Korean film The Handmaiden, which Rohith acknowledges. But that’s where the similarity ends for him. “The film is something else entirely,” he says.
Led by an aggressive Tovino Thomas, Kala seems to be traversing a path less travelled, and Rohith confirms this. The film started with an exciting idea which Rohith felt could be enhanced by certain constraints facilitated by the pandemic. “For me, every film starts with a strong urge to do an exciting subject rather than the genre. In the case of Kala, I felt it could be pulled off during the lockdown time if we toned down the scale a bit,” says the filmmaker, who focused on a single location and took out some sequences which he initially had in mind.
Rohith reveals that the film occurs over a single-day and maintaining continuity was slightly challenging, notably after Tovino suffered a concerning internal injury, following which he underwent surgery. Though the actor recovered, there was a concern about retaining the actors’ looks once they return to the set one-and-a-half months later.
“Since time plays a big factor in the narrative, and we were shooting in the order it was written, the injury became a big roadblock. As we were shooting it continuously, even a small difference would stick out like a sore thumb. During the break for our film, Tovino went to shoot for Kaanekkaane. A different look was planned for him in that film earlier, but for the sake of Kala, he kept the same look. Fortunately, the actors’ strong commitment helped us complete the shoot without affecting continuity,” recalls Rohith, adding that aside from this slight delay and the need to wrap up everything on time, the film didn’t really pose much of a challenge. “The only different thing I did this time was shooting it in the order we wrote.”
Rohith, who co-wrote the script with Yadhu Pushpakaran, believes in making films for which he already has a clear climax in mind. “When I think of the stories I want to tell, I feel that the ones with a clear ending are more original and complete rather than the ones where we make things up as we go along,” he says.
Rohith’s last two films had met with varied responses, with Adventures of Omanakuttan getting the most polarised reactions. Although he is not too proud of it, he believes in staying true to one’s art rather than paying heed to others’ opinions. “If you find a genuine subject worth doing, then all that matters is doing justice to it in the best way possible.”
Kala has Tovino playing a family man with macho traits and a high level of ego. He also has a dog to which he is attached. The film, Rohith says, deals with fear. “It has a creepy atmosphere throughout, and I believe this quality lends itself well to the theatre experience.”
Produced by Siju Mathew and Navis Xaviour under the banner Juvis Production, Kala is a relatively low-budget venture. Divya Pillai, Lal and Sumesh Moor play the other key characters.
It is also one of the films co-produced by Tovino aside from Uyare director Manu Ashokan’s Kaanekkaane and Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s Vazhakku. These three films signal a shift in choices from the actor. “Tovino’s dedication to his craft is so admirable. Audiences are going to see a different Tovino from now on. I believe all his post-lockdown films are going to be very interesting,” says Rohith.
Kala sees Rohith working again with cinematographer Akhil George, who also helmed the camera for his previous films. Dawn Vincent has worked on the sound department while Chaman Chacko handled the cuts.