Sunday, February 12, 2006

Marma (2002)

Marma (2002)
Featuring: Prema, Anand, Kishori Ballal and others.
Directed by: Sunil Kumar Desai

Sunil Kumar Desai (SKD) is known for movies that are out of the ordinary. Be it ‘Nishkarsha’ – a well shot hostage drama or ‘Beladingala Baale’ – a secret lover saga with Anant at his best, SKD has always created cinema with a mysterious touch to it. This has pretty much become his trademark now. Although I have not been following his recent outings, ‘Marma’ seemed to enticing to be missed.

As the title suggests, it is a suspense thriller. Anyone who knows the meaning of the word ‘Marma’ will immediately identify it to be some kind of mystery-based drama. So the viewer gets no prizes for guessing that one. When I had reviewed ‘Anveshane’ and ‘Aparichita’, I had mentioned how smart people have become nowadays which is why making intelligent suspense thrillers is harder now. This parameter needed good

Sudha (Prema) is engaged to Anand (some Bangalore based model by the same name) and things seem to be pink and white with the couple looking forward to a life of bliss. The following day Sudha is invited to Anand’s farmhouse somewhere in the middle of the woods. On her way to the farmhouse a storm appears out of nowhere (so far pretty much stereotypical of a suspense movie) and ends up breaking down Sudha’s car. She notices a wooden cottage and knocks on the door for help. Noticing that no one is responding she manages to enter via an open window and finds a man inside. Despite her best attempts he ignores her presence until she discovers a girl’s dead body upstairs. In a fit of panic the man realizes she has seen too much and jumps on her. Sudha strikes the man and jumps off the balcony and drops unconscious on the wet ground outside.

This opening sequence heats up the goings on right away in this SKD feature. Sudha finds herself in a hospital the following day and returns home. Once home, things start getting seriously creepy. She starts getting random visits by our wood-house man threatening to kill her since she had seen the dead woman. Sudha spends a good one hour trying to convince everyone around her that she is not crazy and that the button she has (she managed to get hold of it when she was in the fight with that man earlier) is proof of what she saw. Anand, the bewildered fiancé, tries his best to convince her that she is hallucinating but Sudha is firm in her stance. She even alleges that the man entered one night and violated her chastity.

The concerned parents bring in a psychiatrist (another newcomer) who spends a good amount of onscreen time lecturing us about such cases. Before you think you are going to doze of to this man’s monotonous baritone, Sudha one day sees the man who is haunting her on the television! Things catch speed once again as SKD takes us on a journey of unraveling this rather bizarre mystery. The doctor starts becoming an integral part in figuring what the truth is. Is the real killer caught? Was there a murder at all or was it Sudha hallucinating? What about the button then? How did the alleged murderer gain entry into her bedroom every night despite so much security? All these questions are answered as the movie approaches a stereotypical end.

Credit is due for the treatment of some scenes. Sudha recognizing the man she is looking for on the television was a smartly shot sequence. Sudha’s friend Maya and her daughter keep appearing out of nowhere to visit and comfort her is also well shot. The sequence where the parents and everyone else realize who exactly is visiting Sudha in her bedroom is also a brilliant master stroke. Another well shot scene is when she brings her family to the wooden-house where she claims to have seen the murderer and actually finds him still there! Many such good sequences make up for the otherwise Prema-dominant movie.

One cannot blame SKD for choosing one known name in this malady based thriller. The story does revolve around her and so no one else gets any major say in the fare. Although I thought the choice of two very important characters – Anand and the doctor – could have been some professional actors rather than newcomers with no experience. That would have added more mileage to this interesting plot. The movie desperately needed one major entity apart from Prema to add spice into the goings on. Had there been that element, I think ‘Marma’s effect would have increased extraordinarily. It does exist after you have seen the movie, but with only one woman pretty much controlling every frame, there is nothing much the viewer can choose from. One wonders if this was SKD’s ambitious project then why he banked on so many new faces.

Without repeating it, performances wise Prema occupies the whole stage. She essays the role of the scared and confused Sudha very effectively. Although at times I thought she went overboard with some of her loud and unreasonable expressions. Anand’s role was such an important one but he manages to mess it up with his non-existent expressions. I sometimes wonder if these people get such pivotal roles due to obligations or friendly favors. As I said, the casting for this role was a bad choice from the word go. His ‘always suspicious’ look becomes a pain to watch as the movie progresses. The psychiatrist character stops preaching and puts some life into his role towards the end, but somehow the face of Anant Nag kept flashing in my mind’s eye for that doctor’s role (and not because I am a fan!). Others including the alleged murderer chip in well with their type-cast performances.

Editing is good although the background music sometimes takes away the effect of the visuals. The rain sequences could have been handled better. Camera work is fine but still-camera positions could have made the in-house sequences more chilling. There are no songs in this feature which is such an important part of a good and gripping thriller movie and SKD uses the background score well for the most part.

‘Marma’ has an excellent storyline and impresses as far as this genre of Kannada cinema is concerned. With a tighter set of performances and smarter dialogues, the movie would have definitely been one of my top five favorites in Kannada.

1 comment:

Madhu said...

Marma is a comedy movie :D for all practical purposes - for me.
I wish I had stayed home!