Virgin Goat -- Film Review

An enigmatic, brightly colored journey through south India in a film of many tastes.

Living up to its whimsical title, “Virgin Goat” takes the viewer on a surreal trip through South India where a poor, half-crazed farmer struggles to mate his beloved Laila, last of a royal lineage of goats. Director Murali Nair, whose “Throne of Death” won the Camera d’Or in Cannes in 1999, transforms the simple story into a modern fairy tale of uncertain import, where social and political issues get hopelessly intertwined with the proud individuality of the stubborn hero. Poised between comedy and the dark side of human nature, film is too long and slow-moving to wander far from the festival trail, though it’s certainly worth a look for art-house programs.

Short, spry and sharp-tongued, plucky Kalyan Singh (Raghubir Yadav) has sold all his land to marry off his daughter. All he has left is a dog-like little goat with soft black fur, whom he seems to love more than his sourpuss wife and lay-about son. When a local vet manages to get her into heat, Kalyan Singh sets off to the other side of the city to mate her to a fine billy goat.

Complicating things, however, is the fact that an important personage is coming to town for a rally, and the police have started setting up road blocks. Leading the docile, aristocratic Laila by a leash, he pushes his way past yellow-uniformed policemen who start rapping to scare him, and circumvents a group of political militants out to make use of him. His astuteness is to no avail, however. First the police and then his own family wantonly conspire to put an end to his dreams.

One surreal adventure leads to another in Nair and Jonathan Page’s unpredictable, fantasy screenplay. Yadav is an extremely able actor who knows how to hold the limelight as he wanders through a magical kingdom that combines many flavors at once: funny and bizarre, fierce and sad.

This enigmatic little film confirms Murali Nair’s unique vision of his native land, as he attempts to describe its joys and sorrows, hopes and tragedies all at once. Sandeep Patil’s cinematography captures the incredibly bright colors of south India in a joyful spirit that echoes the costumes and music.

Venue: Abu Dhabi Film Festival (Competition)
Production companies: Maya Films Unlimited, Les Films de l’Etranger, ZDF Arte
Cast: Raghubir Yadav, Shiela Naidu, Saurab Gharipurikar, Purnima Maudgil, Archana Phadke
Director: Murali Nair
Screenwriters: Jonathan Page, Murali Nair
Executive producer: Raad Ismael
Producer: Philippe Avril, Murali Nair
Director of photography: Sandeep Patil
Production designer: Preeya Nair
Music: Fardin Khalatari, Michael Makhal
Costumes: Fatima Bilgrani, Noelie Charles
Editor: Emiliano Batista
Sales Agent: Unlimited Films
87 minutes