Documentary in the form of fiction

– Throughout the entire screening, I had the impression that I was not watching a feature film, but spying on the hero – writes our reviewer after the screening of ”Clouds of Monsoon” by an Indian filmmaker. The film was presented at the Kolkata IFF, among others. The screening at the Lublin Film Festival was its Polish premiere.

At first glance, ”Clouds of Monsoon” doesn’t stand out among hundreds of short, low-budget films. It doesn’t have an impressive plot, nor striking visuals.

The film tells the story of an ordinary man who receives a job offer. He is happy because due to the lockdown in Mumbai, he had no income for several months. However, he must obtain illegal documents that will enable him to travel by train. Overtime, he is exposed and ends up in prison and then gets out of it with the help from his friend. After this event, the main character continues to live his normal life, when another misfortune strikes him again – his phone is stolen on his way to work. The film ends with a desperate attempt to catch the thief.

There are no sharp plot twists, deep dialogues or complicated set design – all events are predictable and understandable. There is nothing in ”Clouds of Monsoon” that would make it stand out or be memorable. But this is only at first glance.

Throughout the entire screening, I had the impression that I was not watching a feature film, but spying on the hero. The director, Ketan Kuril, very skillfully uses the means of documentary cinema in fiction, maybe it would be even more accurate to say that he made a documentary in the form of a feature film. And after watching the entire film, it leaves a documentary experience impression.

This is visible, for example, in the way the frame is constructed – its purpose is to tell us what is happening, to enable us to see characters and events, and not to delight us with its complexity and beauty. Starting with shots of the streets, where the viewers seem to be spying on the street and looking for our hero, while also exploring the city and its surroundings. Then we move to his house, where the shots are more candid and calmer. Just as a random passerby, we see the hero on the street, stand in his circle of friends and listen to his conversations, travel with him by train, eat and work with him.

But more than that, it can be traced to the plot itself. As I mentioned, there is nothing unusual about it. A calm, routine and predictable story with rare emotional outbursts.

The director’s goal is not to impress or delight. Its goal is to tell the story of a person who lives, loves, works and fights. He experiences failures, recovers from them, hits the walls of a cruel world, but still tries to move on.

That’s what struck me about this movie.

It is very close to life, its routine, repetition, predictability and injustice. It’s not boring or uninteresting. It is an observation of the life of an ordinary man from Mumbai who tries to live, work and feed his family. It tells us a story that would most likely be lost in time. However, today, for half an hour in another part of the world, we have an opportunity to follow the life and the world of an ordinary man from Mumbai.

Yurii Boiko

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