Why do relatively little-known directors almost always try to break ice with thrillers because as this film shows, they sometimes begin with one aim and then lose their way somewhere and cannot decide the direction the plot and story will take. Towards the end, more than a thriller, Kaya seems like a social agenda appealing against the casting couch in the film industry.
Kaya spells out a story of intrigue, suspense, murder and surrealistic existences within the ambience of a film crew that has come to do a recce for the film shoot. The film-within-the-film is also a thriller. Does the director Ranjan Mitra (Koushik Sen) have a dark past to hide which his older crew – the cinematographer Remoh (Santilal Mukherjee), Santu, (Parthasarathi), the production manager and Sandy (Poulami Das), his once-chief AD try to hide to save their own skins perhaps? The narrative centers around Ranjan from beginning to end to allow some space to Raima Sen who portrays Kaya, the wronged woman who is hell bent on avenging the wrong done to her by the man she loved dearly.
The press write-ups repeatedly state that Kaya is a thriller but as the film unfolds, we discover that it is a ghost story that is hardly established by logic. However, unlike typical ghost films in Indian cinema, the fear is established very well with the screeching sound of the swinging of an empty swing in the compound of the remote bungalow the crew has moved into for the recce. Sometimes, a ghostly shadow can be seen seated on the swing.
Set against the backdrop in Meghalaya, director Rajib Chowdhury provides for an environment that is exotic, very isolated from the local populace, inaccessible and clearly removed from the real of mundane, modern-day existence. There is an element of enchantment enriched by a picturesque backdrop with clouds dotting the blue sky against the hilly foreground beautifully captured by the cinematography by Nayan Mani Ghosh.
The acting is the saving grace of the film because everyone does justice to the rather sketchy and illogical characters they are given to essay. Priyanka Sarkar is shaping up to be one of the finest actresses around though she does not get the chances she ought to. Sayani Dutta gives a controlled performance expressing her doubts about the rather questionable underpinnings of her job and yet consenting to it. Koushik seems a bit jaded and tired as Ranjan but his psychological stress is expressed adequately though he could have done better.
A word on the casting couch. As Sandy rightly says, “We are being exploited with our consent.” So, where does that make place for “exploitation”? The main difference between sexual harassment at the workplace and the casting couch lies in the difference between forced sex and consensual sex. The casting couch operates much before one even steps into a given area of work such as films. Sexual harassment involves victims who are already working in an organization.
The characters strangely seem to live in a social vacuum as no family backdrop is evident for any of them at any point of the film. Are they not social animals? No one seems to care about the missing executive who goes in search of the director’s medicines. Looking at the director’s irresponsible callousness about his missing crew members, one wonders how he became both commercially successful as well as critically acclaimed. The theme song, which is one of the keys to the success of any thriller, is a terrible come-down and not only fails to work but slows down the tempo and the mood of the film.
Overall, Kaya intends to straddle the boundary between the thriller and the ghost story but fails on both counts. If anything holds the film together, one is a very good performances by every actor and the second is the outstanding cinematography.
Bengali, Thriller, Color