A vengeful intergenerational bloodbath between two families assumes a tenacious. Almost ritualistic inevitability in the debutant of Ninin Lukose Paka: River Of Blood. A Malayalam film set in an ancient but upsetting passage in the Wayanad region of Kerala. Usually, rivers are donors. The one in Paka attracts a lot of human sacrifices.
Why and how it’s done is detailed in this hard-working and genre-breaking film.
Paka combines the conventions of revenge stories with the meditative methods of socio-historical chronicles. I am using primarily naturalistic ways to contextualize.
The feuds entrenched in the past but still loud and intense. Paka expresses the anger and suffering experienced in every act of violence. Committed during the period covered by the film and the several decades in which wrote the script.
Lukose, also is the author of the film, who does not treat violence as spectacle. As something that can produce entertainment. Instead, it places the endless bloodshed in their moral sphere. And against the backdrop of the chaos the seemingly peaceful city has endured for years.
Lukose, an FTII alumnus who creates voices for films. Such as Raam Reddy’s Thithi and Dibakar Banerjee’s recent Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar. Which grew up in the city where he played Paka. “Inspired by the stories my grandmother heard,” he places repeated violence in the context of the cycles.
Kalodi is a city where thousands of people immigrated from central Generala. Between the 1940s and 1970s and waged war (with elements and former settlers) for survival and stability. During the process of relocation and assimilation.
Local groups rehearse, and pious people prepare for the big day throughout the film:
By culminating in the annual church festival. The beat of drums and other musical instrument sounds that interrupts by the piercing. Invisible voice of the WWE commentator from the television. Smooth and spicy, timeless and lingering meet in a misty environment that hides their inner restlessness very well.
Like the city it runs through, the river has been gripped by a thirst for blood for decades. Lukose knows the ins and outs of the locals. Therefore, it is not about wowing audiences with fantastic cinematography or long, screaming, confident singles. As is common in many contemporary Malayalam films.
The actors’ performances, a mix of amateur and professional. Which capture the daily rhythm of the region. Even as actors are faced with the challenge of clarifying characters. Who find themselves in unusual situations.
Even when the time comes, Lukase is aware of the continuum to which every fleeting moment belongs. Like many revenge dramas, Paka is not like a river in waves but a gently flowing stream. The tension and foreboding emanate from the deep undersea currents. Almost like the corpses that expert swimmer Jose often catches from the river.
Those scenes don’t want to be packaged into a 101-minute film just for the sake of effect.
They allowed to breathe and express their space. They serve to gradually and steadily build an atmosphere. Where courage and perseverance are on the cheek after tragedy and brutality. Paca has the essence of a “gangster” film. But the mind – and body – of a cinematic masterpiece. That believes in seeing human harm from violence outside of time.
The film begins with a corpse being dragged out of a river. By an old man with a curly white moustache. Another old man sitting by the river listening to cricket commentary live on transistors. That this was just an ordinary day in Calodi’s life was confirmed by the final trumpeter. When the body of a slain man was pulled from one of the river’s notorious ditches. And laid on the ground for identification.
Student Paachi (Atul John) returns home and shares with his grandmother what he has just seen. Another person is missing, another number on a list that continues to grow. But life goes on in a lush city environment. That hides a wounded and bleeding heart.
As well as Paachi’s older brother Johnny (Basil Paulose). He falls in love with Anna (Vinita Koshi), a woman from a rival family. When Kochepu’s husband (Jose Kijakkan) returns to town after serving a prison sentence for murder. The trouble arises, exacerbating the feud between Johnny and Anna’s family.