Sexy Durga (2017)

Sexy Durga
Director: Sanal Kumar Sasidharan
Writer: Sanal Kumar Sasidharan
Cast: Rajshri Deshpande, Bilas Chandrahasan Nair, Kannan Nayar, Arun Sol, Sujish, Vedh
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 29.10.2017

Kabeer (Kannan Nayar) and his girlfriend Durga (Rajshri Deshpande) are in desperate need of a ride: they desperately need to catch their train. As they make their way through the night in Kerala, it becomes clear that they are running away: Kabeer is Muslim, Durga – who comes from the North and only speaks Hindi – a Hindu and their relationship is bound to cause offense. They are picked up by four rough-looking guys in a van and what seems a favor at first, quickly becomes a nightmare for Kabeer and Durga.

Sexy Durga is on a feminist mission. Or at least it thinks it is. But what it is above all is very dreary. And I am unsure of how much it really achieves its feminst goals.

Before I go deeper into this, a couple of disclaimers are necessary, I think. First, my train was late, unfortunately, so I came about 10 to 15 minutes late into the film. Second, I don’t know a whole lot about India, Indian culture or Indian history. While I did try to glean some context information about the film, my take on it is probably woefully underinformed.

Here’s what I can say about the context of the film: Durga is a Hindu goddess (making titling the film Sexy Durga a taboo-breaking scandal) who is supposed to fight for what’s right and just. The film intercuts the story of Kabeer and Durga with scenes from a Durga worship, effectively juxtaposing the sexist attacks on the human Durga in the course of the film with the worship of the deity, begging the question of how men can both perpetrate violence and worship women at the same time.

So far the theory or the intention behind the film. The resulting film, unfortunately, didn’t manage to transport that for me. At first it does manage to conjure up a feeling of oppressiveness and fear, but then the film basically starts to repeat the same scene over and over again. And then it just ends in the middle of one of these scenes, leaving us absolutely nowhere. Kabeer and Durga, and with them the audience, might not have moved at all during the entire film, making everything feel way longer than it actually was (and that despite the fact that I missed the first few minutes. And I asked later and it was confirmed to me that I didn’t miss some key scene in the beginning but rather that it was more of the same).

I was also highly irritated by the fact that Durga – not being able to speak Malayalam – was basically unable to speak for herself during the entire film. Maybe that was meant as a metaphor along the lines of “if men only spoke the language of women”, but if effectively robs Durga of her voice and literally has men speaking for her the entirety of the film. Not a very feminist film, considering the intention of the film.

There was a really nice shot at the end of the film, where the car they have been traveling in, which is lit up like a disco ball, suddenly starts looking like a demon. But a single shot of a nicely lit car really didn’t make the film worth it for me.

Summarizing: Ugh.

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