Gulaal -- Film Review

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Venice Film Festival, Out of competition

VENICE -- Anurag Kashyap's "Gulaal" presents a giant of a canvas, and like an exuberant painter wanting to fill every corner of it with every conceivable color, the director touches upon a mind-boggling variety of issues. The film is unlikely to travel much beyond the Indian diaspora.

In many aspects, "Gulaal," which did reasonable business in India when it opened some weeks ago, runs like a Shakespearean tragedy of love, jealousy, greed and corruption. Male superiority diminishes the divinity of women, and they end up being as mere means to an end.

Set in Rajasthan, the nonlinear plot begins rather innocently by following a simpleton student, Dileep Singh (Raj Singh Chaudhary), as he secures admission for a law degree. He is brutally attacked by fellow students, stripped to his skin and locked up in a small room along with a young woman professor, Anuja (Jessie Randhawa), also stark naked. The violence and humiliation set the tone for the story, liberally peppered with blood and gore.

Dileep finds himself a pawn in the local politics spearheaded by Dukey Bana (Kay Kay Menon), a powerful local leader who dreams of a Rajasthan independent of the Indian Union. Woven into this are songs, a love story between Anuja and Dileep, a Mata Hari-like character named Kiran (Ayesh Mohan) and several minions out to snatch a share of the loot.

Though the work is provocative, even shocking, Kashyap's screenplay appears so very restless that characterization is the eventual casualty. Yes, Menon emerges unscathed, keeps his head above the water and helps us carry home the memory of some splendid acting. The rest really do not match up to him.

Adding to the disappointment is a color scheme by Kashyap and cinematographer Rajiv Ravi, the mix and mingle of several hues, though the prominent one -- pink or Gulaal -- gives a hazy feel. If the idea was to enhance the mood, it did not quite succeed.

Production: Zee Entertainment Enterprises
Cast: Kay Kay Menon, Raj Singh Chaudhary, Jessie Randhawa, Mahie Gill, Aditya Srivastav, Ayesha Mohan
Director/screenwriter: Anurag Kashyap
Producer: Deepak Sharma
Director of photography: Rajiv Ravi
Production designer: Wasiq Khan
Music: Piyush Mishra
Costume designers: Shubhra Gupta, Fabeha Sultana
Editor: Aarti Bajaj
No rating, 140 minutes
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