Pulijanmam (2006) (aka Tiger Birth)
Director Priyanandan’s National Award winning Pulijanmam (2006) charts the efforts of a middle-aged, true-blue communist playwright Prakash (the recently deceased Murali Nair) who is about to stage a play based on a folk legend about a highly-skilled man, Kari, of the lower caste who defies god and enters the dark woods, assuming a tiger incarnation, to bring back tiger mane in order to cure the madness of the ruler. “Every generation takes what it wants from a story” says Prakash early on. For one, he sees himself as a reincarnation of Kari and the play as some sort of a self-portrait. History and mythology merge as Prakash finds his campaign against religion and against the ruling communist party’s decision to allow corporations to build resorts over farm lands to be increasingly similar to Kari’s inhuman crusade. Writers N. Prabhakaran’s and N. Sasidharan’s ambition to chronicle the fall of communism in one of the nation’s two most left-leaning states is palpable, but Priyanandan’s methods hurt the film beyond recovery. The director resorts to too much cross cutting, trying to thrust the parallel between the two stories down our throats and destroying the intrigue built up by the film’s first half-hour. The cinematography and composition is purely functional, with some flashes of brilliance to hold attention. Then there’s also the script’s tendency to cover too much ground and make a few social observations too many that stick out like a sore thumb. I must say it’s a tad disappointing to see this film being given the Indian National Award for best film over Goutam Ghose’s ideologically kindred and infinitely superior Yatra (2006).