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Humans are flawed – not only by virtue but also the way we define our primrose path of living & confine it by the obstinate socio-cultural wall. As we cover our journey from an embryo to the deathbed, our vision of life develops bleak & tapered. We are so plagued by materialism & consumed by a superficial lifestyle that we find ourselves lost in metaphysical living, if at all. Rather than believing in our own mind and soul, we are reduced to a body that follows a template to navigate through the course of life. Most of the time we unconsciously don’t rebel, out of fear to be outcasted from the society. One of the byproducts of disorderly organized society is our lead protagonist – a teacher – who audaciously dances in the middle of the road.

‘Kaul- A calling’ is an aggressive divergent thinking film that has nihilism & existentialism at its core done in highly unconventional manner. Kaul is a meditation on losing the sanity or attaining the moksha. A visceral philosophical experience that is haunting & horrific in equal measure which leaves you with spiritual ambiguity.

The film opens with the below quote by Nietzsche;

“Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”

Aadish Keluskar’s debut film quite resonates the quote in a literal and metaphorical sense. You will either hate the film for its experimental storytelling & call it pretentious or you will love every bit of it for the same reason and dig it – there is no middle ground. In a metaphorical sense, Kaul breaks all the established conventions of film-making. You may call him mad for the way story plays out on the screen, but if you listen to what he has to say, you will fall in love with Kaul.  Kaul relies heavily on an exploratory audio-visual medium that is rare for Indian cinema. I don’t recall when was the last time I found anything so profound, deeply moving, and quite disturbing – all at the same time.

Aadish neither takes his audience for granted nor think of them as dumbfucks who constantly need to be spoon fed. He takes the audience for an adventurous ride that is nothing less than a nightmare in itself. This is a kind of a nightmare where complete submission to ‘Kaul’ will definitely invigorate metaphysical thinking. It won’t guide to the path of salvation. It will just give you an alternate perspective about how society has created the existential conundrum and seek social acknowledgment for being sane.

The lead protagonist (played by Rohit Kokate) is a school teacher who witnesses a supernatural event that he finds hard to accept. He seeks an answer to it from an old man who is the only witness to the event. Aadish quite smartly exhibits the paradox about how a teacher is asked to unlearn everything known to him about Gods and humans to enlighten himself about ‘neti-neti’ (literally translate to “not this, not this” in Sanskrit) ideology.

Rohit Kokate’s performance is no less than a ‘miracle’ – because he believed in it. Rohit perfectly displays the character’s apprehension to accept the supernatural forces around him and his reluctance to submit to it. He makes the character’s vulnerability as a human so palpable that you root for his good being.

Aadish Keluskar’s writing is flawless, cerebral and thought provoking. Aadish intelligently stitches mundane but evocative montages to create an eerie atmosphere. It could not have been possible without the help of cinematographer – Ameya Chavan – and sound designers, Ritwik Raj Pathak, Siddharth Dubey and Piyush Shah. It was a brave call by the producer, Chintu Singh, to back up such experimental film that will be hard to market and even harder to reach its desired audience. Kaul will be celebrated as an unconventional film done right. It is a milestone film in Indian cinema which will have a cult status in the near future.

★★★★

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