At its heart, Killa is essentially a coming-of-age movie shot beautifully
The story of Avinash Arun’s Marathi film, Killa, is about an 11-year-old boy, Chinmay (Archit Deodhar), whose father has recently passed away and his mother (Amruta Subhash), who works to support herself and him, has been transferred from Pune to a small town on Maharashtra’s Konkan coast.
Chinmay initially has a tough time adjusting to the new place. But slowly, he makes new friends like Yuvraj (Gaurish Gawade), Bandya (Parth Bhalerao) and Omkar (Atharva Upasni).
Killa or fort is the venue of an important turning point in Chinmay’s journey as he gets lost and finds himself there all alone during torrential rains. It is at this point in the story that he begins to grow up.
Killa is about the psychology of a young child who is traumatised by the loss of his father and his uprooting from his comfort zone in Pune. Avinash Arun introduced this particular angle in the storyline based on his own experience as a child.
His father was in the education department in Maharashtra and kept getting transferred throughout the state. Displacement has the potential to wreak havoc on the mind of a young child and getting acclimatised to new surroundings takes time. Chinmay’s struggle to make friends and keep them dominates his experience in the new town.
The film also shows the difficulties faced by a single woman in Indian society. Apart from pressures at work, Chinmay’s mother faces an uncomfortable question from a friendly old neighbour when she is asked if she has thought of re-marrying since her husband’s death.
But the most remarkable thing about Killa is how the environment plays a role in calming Chinmay’s inner conflict. The film is shot entirely in the Konkan region. Every aspect of Konkan is minutely and beautifully captured: the rainy season, the intermittent rain, the pristine beaches, crabs, rocks, lighthouses, fishermen’s boats, small streams meandering through the countryside and the green countryside itself.
The backdrop forms a powerful base for the characters’ emotional interplay. The scene where Chinmay sets off in a boat is powerful. He sets out for the vastness of the sea, letting his mind slowly take in the beauty before him. While the idea of the elements restoring calm to an anxious mind is not new, it still feels novel in the film’s handling of it.
Killa makes a powerful statement about the environment and child psychology in moving images shot beautifully. It is a must-watch.
Director Avinash Arun tells Down To Earth what inspired him to make the film
Is Killa semi-autobiographical?
I spent my childhood living all across Maharashtra. My father was in the education department. He used to be transferred frequently. I used to change schools now and then. Of these years, I spent five years in Konkan. When I was at the Film and Television Institute of India, I started thinking about making a narrative based on those experiences. I developed the project over six long years. Killa is, thus, the sum total of all those experiences that I had in my childhood, especially those years spent in Konkan.
The landscape plays a huge part in the film. Was it a conscious decision to highlight the landscape?
Yes, absolutely. For me as a cinematographer, the setting is most important. I especially examine my own relationship with the five elements through my films. I try to understand the language of nature. Maharashtra is so beautiful. In my next film, I am using the Sahyadri mountain range in the monsoon as a backdrop.
Marathi cinema is exploring children’s themes. We have had films like Shala, Vihir and Fandry, all dealing with childhood themes.
That is all sheer coincidence. All these are different, individual films in their own right. All of us, filmmakers who have made these films, are telling something about ourselves and our own lives. That these stories are being told through children is just coincidence. Perhaps all of us are doing so since we know that we can touch different chords by telling our stories through children’s eyes.
What was your experience like working with the children?
Superb, extraordinary! They are all very talented and mature. We had fun during the making of the film though it was about a serious topic.
Do you have a personal favourite among the child characters in the film?
The lead character, Chinmay Kale played by Archit Deodhar, is extremely close to me since it is based on my own experiences.
Is it a golden era for Marathi cinema currently?
I don’t believe in terminologies. I believe every generation plays its part in all spheres of life, including making films. It is just that now, we are reaching out to a larger audience. Also, I am grateful to the Marathi audience since it has matured enough to accept films like Killa. There is nothing like a golden age. It is just that the audience has matured. And we will only give them more such content in the years to come.