Nilanadukkam, by Balaji Vembu Chelli: A fascinatingly original take on our scoop-addicted media era

Posted on February 27, 2021



The hallucinatory film has its India premiere at the Arthouse Asia Film Festival in Kolkata.  The earthquake of the title is both a metaphor as well as an actual calamity.

Spoilers ahead…

Nilanadukkam! An earthquake! How sensational the term sounds! What a scoop it could be for a journalist who happens to be in the vicinity! It’s the kind of premise that makes you want to end every statement with an exclamation mark! But from the first scene, writer-director Balaji Vembu Chelli sets out to strip this story of all its exclamation marks. A phone rings early in the morning. A journalist (Rajeev Anand) is awakened by the sound. It’s probably his editor. He gets the brief about the earthquake. (It’s in Kodaikanal, which is a little drive away.) He doesn’t race out of his hotel room. He walks out. And as he goes down the stairs, the stationary camera gazes at the empty corridor for a few extra seconds. There are no exclamation points in the staging, either.

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