Sexy Durga Screen 7 articles

Sexy Durga


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  • A nightmarish experience in more ways than one, Sanal Kumar Sasidharan's improvised, nocturnal Indian road movie Sexy Durga forces protagonists and audience alike through a grueling ordeal with questionable rewards. Powered by a punkishly provocative energy that's easier to admire than enjoy, this deliberately unpleasant depiction of man's casual and cruel inhumanity to man — and woman — nabbed the $43,000 Tiger Award at the just-concluded International Film Festival Rotterdam.

  • The ride from hell is intercut with scenes of young men hooked by the skin of their back and dangled from above in part of ritual celebration ironically is indebted to Kali, the alter ego of the goddess Durga. This bit of information seems key to correctly viewing Sasidharan’s film as one concerning hypocritical attitudes towards women, but without it, the ceremony scenes only add, however appropriately, to the frenzied mood of dangerous uncertainty.

  • Building suspense without breaking with the tone of unvarnished realism he established in the footage depicting the Garudan Thookkam ceremony, Sasidharan illuminates the aggression and sense of entitlement that leads to rape and shows how an assault often starts with bullying or insinuating conversation and nonsexual forms of physical encroachment.

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    Film Comment: Nicolas Rapold
    May 03, 2017 | May/June 2017 Issue (p. 25)

    As much as these sequences offer the prospect of violence, perhaps the most graphic scenes of bodily harm come in the discrete scenes of ritual that bookend the film without comment: extended documentary shots of a religious festival where certain participants hang from hooks plunged into their backs. It's a provocative cultural frame for Sasidharan's thriller, in which traditional mores produce constant threat.

  • Its maddening repetitions force us to inhabit its unpleasant psychological terrain, and while a satisfactory resolution never materialises, one suspects that is precisely Sasidharan’s absurdist point: the cycle of distrust and danger continues ever on.

  • A deeply unsettling triumph of sustained tension, the movie is built from long, impossibly agile takes, most of which take place within or little more than shouting distance from a single, mostly moving, car. It’s the type of film previously unimaginable in India, where it will likely never be shown — a work of aesthetically and politically-engaged arthouse genre-y filmmaking we would do well to produce more of in the United States, especially as our country grows more repressive.

  • Like Sasidharan’s acclaimed previous feature, Ozhivudivasathe Kali (2015), Sexy Durga blends giddy, atmospheric stylization—long and dynamic shots, psychedelic lighting, hair-raising music—with razor-sharp political critique, weaving a subtextual confluence of themes of gender, language, religion, and authority into the film’s bare-bones narrative.

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