Bishwas Balan on directing the short ‘Kaaliraathri’, which has been getting significant attention on the festival circuit
A fraught mother-son relationship marked by mutual distrust and suspicion and a crime, forms the premise of filmmaker Bishwas Balan’s debut short film Kaaliraathri (Night of the Kaali). The seven-minute short recently won the Most Disturbing Film at the Independent Horror Movie Awards, Tokyo.
Earlier, it was awarded the Silver Medal (Best Short Drama) at the UK Seasonal Short Film Festival (London, 2020), it also picked up the Outstanding Achievement Award (Horror) at the Continental Film Festival (Canada, 2020). The short has been nominated for several awards at international film festivals.
The reason why the film resonates across continents and countries, Balan says, “is that it presents the horror of patriarchy as seen/perpetuated through the actions. The topic [patriarchy] is universal, irrespective of language and culture.”
Balan has worked in television and advertising industries; he has also assisted filmmaker Selvaraghavan.
At its heart,there are three characters — the ‘alpha male’ son, his mother and a speech-impaired woman. Set in the backdrop of the Kodungallur Bharani festival, held annually at the Kodungallur Bhagavathy temple, the action takes place on the night of the festival.
“I chose the narrative device deliberately…the visual was designed in such a way that it pushes the viewer into its world. I used the fast cut montage with tinted-colour frames to complete the effect,” explains Balan on how he created the ambiance. He chose Kodungallur for its familiarity since he belongs to nearby Cherpu.
“The story came to me and the cultural context is familiar too. It was, perhaps, always there in my mind, in my memories.” The stories of women and the everyday abuse they are subjected to, are juxtaposed with of goddess, to deliver a larger point.
The film, made in 2019, has been on the festival circuit since, though it is yet to première at an Indian film festival, “I wanted to take it to festivals outside the country, I want people to see it with an open mind, go into the subtext.”
The canvas of the film offers the potential for a large screen, “I have been asked about opting for the short format. This [short film] gives me artistic license to say what I want without commercial compromises and censorship issues.”
The actors are Tito Wilson, Jolly Chirayath, Rajan Pootharakkal, and Saritha C, music is by Bijibal, camera Vishnu Sarma, Sunil S Pillai is the editor and sound by Ganesh Marar.