What would happen if Durga decided to take a stroll through the streets after sunset? Would she still be treated as a goddess, a venerated being who inspires an almost primal devotion? Or would her powers diminish with the waning light, as she gets reduced to a binary, a prey, a chance for physical gratification? Sxxx Durga is not an easy movie to watch; the horrors shown on the reel are only too real. Sanal Kumar Sasidharan's third movie—after award-winning Oralpokkam and Ozhivu Divasathe Kali—is a political statement, questioning the hypocritical nature of patriarchy ingrained in the society we live in.
The movie opens to jolting visuals of garudan thookkam—Eagle Hanging—a ritual performed in south Kerala's Durga temples. Men, who dress up as the mythical Garuda, in seemingly different stages of trance, are hung from a shaft attached to a moving vehicle, hooked to the skin of their backs. As the movie progresses, the saga of lovers Durga and Kabeer unfolds. With inter-faith names, the director invokes the right wing bogey of love jihad, without taking the spectre by name.
The eloping couple is on a highway, desperately in search of an escape avenue. They are offered a ride by a group who, as it turns out, harbour predatory tendencies; the night soon becomes a waking nightmare for the duo. Throughout the film, Durga is physically unharmed, but Kabeer is unable to shield her from the relentless emotional rape, indicative of the ordeal faced by women on a regular basis. As the tension peaks to a climax, we are treated to the final scenes of the garudan thookkam ritual, leaving the audience pondering: was goddess Durga actually pleased by the rites?
The whole film was shot in a period of 25 days, and Sasidharan relies on the beauty of improvisation, filming without a formal script. Rajshri Deshpande, who essays Durga, and Kannan Nayar, who plays Kabeer, perform their roles to perfection.
Cinematographer Prathap Joseph explores a wide range of angles. But he refrains from close-ups or extreme close-ups to convey the fear on the face of the protagonists. In the garudan thookkam sequences, the cinematography slips to a documentary realm.
Three-time national award winner Harikumar Madhavan Nair's brilliant sound mixing heightens the sense of understated trepidation. The soundtrack is composed by Basil C. J., and features thrash metal band Chaos.
From the making to its release, the film faced numerous hurdles. There were controversies over the initial title, 'Sexy Durga', and tiffs with the certification board that acted as a censor board. The movie was later unceremoniously removed from the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) roster, despite having won numerous international accolades like the prestigious Hivos Tiger Award in Rotterdam International Film Festival. S Durga was finally released in the theatres through crowdfunding, a novel attempt which is worth replicating by independent filmmakers across the country.
Film: S Durga
Director: Sanal Kumar Sasidharan
Cast: Rajshri Deshpande, Kannan Nayar