A priest haunted by bizarre voices, a nurse who moonlights as a B-grade actress and a guilt-torn theatre owner - Kanyaka Talkies surely has an intriguing premise. Set against the backdrop of a hillside settler village, the award-winning film spins a complex web of passion, desire, faith and guilt. “The film deals with desire, resultant guilt and attempts at taming and tackling it. Most of the times we are lost in the abysses of it,” says K R Manoj, director.
In a sense Kanyaka Talkies explores incompatibility of two colonial imports - a Semitic religion and cinema. “The film examines how these two constructs work in a post-colonial society. It shows how religion shrinks your choices and suffocates you with guilt. Religion, especially Semitic religions, equate desire with sin for their own survival,” he says.
Based on a story by P V Shajikumar, the film zooms into the sleepy village of Kuyyali. “You come across many dialects at a settler village in Kerala, so it could be anywhere. Kuyyali represents all those places where colonialism has left its undeniable imprints,” says Manoj.
After catering soft porn for decades, Yakoob, the owner of Kanyaka Talkies, decides to call it quits. “Tormented by personal tragedies, he leaves the village handing over his theatre to the local diocese,” says Manoj. They convert the building into a church and Fr Michele gets appointed as the priest of the newly-transformed space. But the quiet of the prayer house is soon broken as he gets vibes of an upsetting past through weird sounds. And, among the congregations is Ancy, a home nurse who also works an an extra artist in B grade films. “The film chronicles a series of events in Kuyyali that connects the three,” he adds. While Murali Gopi and Lena play Fr Michele and Ancy, Alencier steps into the role of Yakoob.
Just as its title suggests, ‘Kanyaka Talkies’ also delves into the eventual vanishing of B and C class theatres. “The different cultural space they provided and the marks they left in the society - the film also try to record that change,” he says.
Since Fr Michele’s audio hallucinations are an integral part of the narrative, Kanyaka Talkies boasts of an impressive soundscape as well. “Sound is perhaps the most important aspect of the film and once I decided to do the film, the first thing I wanted was a sound designer,” he says. While Rajeevan Ayyappan, who has worked for international projects, is the sound designer, M Harikumar is the recordist. “Rajeevan is a Luxemburg-based designer, but also a Malayali who knows the local pulse. We have done the sound part with utmost care investing more money that any mainstream film would do. The sound post production took nearly six months,” he says.‘Kanyaka Talkies’ has its script by P V Shaji Kumar, Ranjini Krishnan and K R Manoj. Shahanad Jalal has cranked the camera while Anitha Thampi has penned the lyrics. Maniyanpilla Raju, Indrans, Nandu, Sudheer Karamana, Sunil Sugatha, N L Balakrishnan and Parvathi are also part of the cast.
The film has to its credit a string of laurels including three state awards, FIPRESCI Prize at IFFK and the award for best screenplay at New York International Film Festival. The film produced by Tropical Cinema and Work in Progress will hit the screens this Friday.