In this day and age when everyone is out there making a film and calling it indie to cover up its shoddy production value or the fact that it’s just plain bad, Greater Elephant is a real good indie film. This is director Srinivas Sunderrajan’s sophomore film and is less metaphysical unlike his debut, The Untitled Karthik Krishnan Project. This one is more of a metaphorical dramedy.
The film has no stars and was made in less than the money production houses spend on promoting a bad gaana wala film. And that just goes a long way into proving that you do not need money but a vision to make a good film. The story is pretty simple and involves a chance gathering of a mahout, a theatre owner, a god, a dracula, a tout, a tea stall owner and a constable who are all looking for an elephant. Yes you read that right, oh and there’s an elephant too, depending on how you see it.
Srinivas teams up with funny man Omkar Sane (who also plays the tea stall owner in the film) to pen what is a very well written, funny and yet inconclusive screenplay. It has the perfect blend of the overt melodrama of a stage play and bountiful helpings of the insanity of both the writers.
What is most beautiful about the film is the way the relatively unknown cast brings to life the screenplay. The performances are over-the-top when they need to be and under-played when needed. In any which way, they are compelling throughout the entire 90 minutes of the film. I really liked Hussain Dalal’s portrayal of the devout mahout and Naveen Kaushik’s portrayal of Lord Shiva. But it was Shreyas Pandit as the promotion-hungry constable who stole the show for me. Being the stupid cynic that I am, I went into the theatre with a pre-conceived notion that I may not like the film. I was obviously wrong. This film made me think and a very few films off late have managed to do that for me.
The theme of search for the elephant is explored very well through the vibrant characters and this parallels an existential question that we all ask ourselves at some point of time – what are we here? What is our purpose in life? Most of us follow up that question with introspection or a drinking binge or maybe both. What this film does is that it relates this search in a metaphorical manner for our comprehension.
Shot entirely on prosumer D-SLRs like the Canon 5D and Canon 7D, this movie presents a brilliant perspective of the happenings to the audience. DOP Varun Dutt does a brilliant job with the camera; a lot of the shots are static but that’s exactly what makes the performances so effective. Bangalore based folk rock band Swarathma lends its music to the film and makes it all the more earthy, just the way you would like it to be.
Yes, I am worried about how this film is going to be perceived and compared with various other mainstream films being screened simultaneously. On top of that owing to the indie nature of the film it is following a limited release model of one city at a time (Pune being the first). This brings us to the more important question. Are our audiences ready to pay and watch a film such as Greater Elephant? I don’t really know. What I do know is that this film is a must watch, not just because it’s a good film but also because it represents a thought process which sees films beyond being mindless entertainers. Do watch it whenever it reaches your city.