S Durga Movie Review: It Doesn’t Cause Any Offence To Anyone Except Perverts!

Movie: S Durga

Starring: Rajshree Despande, Kannan Nayar

Directed by: Sanal Sasidharan

Rating: *** ½ (3 and a  half stars)

The  first 15 minutes of  this  jolting experiment with truth and nails, seems  completely  unrelated  to the rest of the film.

This  is what you get when there is no formal screenplay. S Durga(S by the way, stands  for ‘Sexy’ but shhhh!) was shot over one night on a barren  highway with no script . The  film is a marvel of improvisation. Director Sanal Sasidharan  is  not afraid  to plunge into the abyss of the unknown as he explores the sexual dynamics  of caste , gender and religious discrimination on  a  scarily dark desolate stretch   of a road  less travelled.

In  some unexpected way, the highway becomes a metaphor for the socio-cultural imbalances  in our society where the bullies often posing as custodians  of the country’s moral values take over  the  destiny of ordinary citizens.

And so it happens with the couple Durga(Rajshree Despande) and Kabeer(Kannan Nayar) who are on the run.

The girl is  Hindu and  North Indian. And  the  boy is a Muslim from Kerala. Yup, this is the forbidden  frightening world of  ‘love jihad’ as seen through the eyes of  a director who suffers with the  couple and is able to transmute their feeling of  growing dread to the  audience  .  As  the couple hitches  a ride  with four sinister ‘strangers’ (billed simply as ‘strangers’) the intuitively improvised narrative gathers  its cumulative strength by letting the  couple’s destiny hang  in abeyance.

We  never know till the end what will happen to them. When we  leave the couple we are given no assurance  that they  will be safe  from predators and  perverts.But we do know that the strangers who have given them  a ride, are taking them  for a ride that is most likely end in a horrible crime. Will the girl be raped? Will they be murdered? Or will the couple  be robbed and  allowed  to escape with their lives?

As  the  scriptless voyage into  the unknown reaches an end,  you will find yourself  sending up  a prayer for Durga–who is sexy because she is not doing what sexy people normally do in films, namely act wounded vulnerable and hysterical  under stress–and Kabeer–who is Muslim and  in the company of his Hindu soulmate on a desolate highway…can it get any scarier? Can we ever hope for  a balanced social order when two young adults can’t feel safe together ?

S Durga is  not an easy film to watch. Its  aura of uncertainty makes  you uncomfortable and  quezy.It is  thoroughly unpredictable and frequently  out of control .The cinematographer(Prathap Joseph)  goes with the couple’s fears and insecurities capturing, not  the outside world that creates these  negative thoughts but the  emotions that flow from within the couple as  they  try to remain calm under  stress.

The thing about S Durga  is, nothing HAPPENS to the couple. Not really. Till the end they are unharmed. And  the  social transgressors who offer them a ride keep reassuring the couple that they are safe in their company.

But are they?  Director Sanal Sasirdharan constructs a spiral of terror without actually surrendering to the  rituals  of  horror.

Speaking  of rituals the  film opens with a  lengthy uncut recording of an elaborate Hindu ritual where the fanatic worshippers  of  the Mother Goddess inflict masochistic pain on their selves just to please  the  deity. The things we do in the name of the gods, I tell you! And  theGoddesss whom we whip  ourselves  for  into  a bloodied  pulp can’t be  called sexy.

Self-punishment  is attractive  only when we  do 50 shades  of grey. This  film goes into a thousand shades  of black.

Watching  S Durga you may feel at times  like a  wayward traveler who has lost his way while trying to escape  from a situation  of oppression. In doing so, the film creates yet another level of  ineluctable terror.Tyranny, oppression and persecution are inescapable in a society  where  children  are  taught to look at the opposite sex with curiosity and other religious communities with caution.

It’s not love jihad we should fight. It is  the aversion to love—and not just romantic love– that needs drastic revision in our social  order. S Durga in  its unrehearsed  improvised way  tells us why love is such crime on the highway  to hell.


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