“Poomaram”… This marvellous movie-mosaic is a tribute not just to the artistic process but to art itself

Posted on March 22, 2018

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Spoilers ahead…

Read the full review on Film Companion, here: http://www.filmcompanion.in/poomaram-movie-review-baradwaj-rangan/

Abrid Shine makes star-studded (or at least, star son-studded) feature films, but he has the heart of an empathetic documentarian. In 1983, he deposited us in the midst of village cricket – though there was still the sense of a story, the sense of a protagonist who would guide us through it. Action Hero Biju was looser – though, again, with a central character holding the episodic narrative together. Poomaram (Blooming Tree), which is about an inter-collegiate arts festival, dispenses with these “fictional” tropes altogether, and becomes the cinematic equivalent of a wide-angle shot. Most films are close-ups, zooming in and directing our eyes to characters and situations. In Poomaram, the eye is free to wander. Every frame is packed, layered. Look here, and you see a thirsty policeman chugging down water. Look there, and it’s a dancer being fed carefully by her mother, so her makeup isn’t ruined.

This design isn’t immediately apparent, for the film – at first – sets up convenient (and conventional) oppositions: the girls of St. Teresa’s College vs. the students of Maharaja College. (There are over 60 colleges participating, but focusing on everyone would be too much of a wide-angle. So the director, understandably, zooms in on these two institutions.) Looking at the more privileged, English-speaking, bred-to-be-champs students of St. Teresa’s (they’ve won the trophy five years running) versus the mundu-clad, Malayalam-spouting “commoners” of Maharaja College, I thought Poomaram was going to be a replay of Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (or its source, Breaking Away), set in Ernakulam – but issues of class and gender are relegated to the background. In the forefront is the artistic process – the planning, the preparation, the performance.

Continued at the link above.

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