wogma rating: Beg or borrow, but do watch (?)
Lucia is the first crowd funded Kannada film and an indie film through and through. That, however, in no way implies that one must gauge it any different from how one would any other film. Backed by a terrific story and a convincing lead cast, this film that looks at the blurred lines between dreams and reality, holds its own as an engaging cinematic experience.Read more
“Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?” – Morpheus, The Matrix (1999)
The story of how Pawan Kumar’s second feature film was made has become a part of cinema lore. Failed attempts at finding a producer led to a scathing blog post from the director, which then led to him exploring crowd-funding. This culminated in the 50-lakh-odd film Lucia, shot on a Canon 5D - now the first crowd-funded Kannada film to find a theatrical release.
People tend to judge an indie film differently from a ‘normal’ film, whatever that means. ‘Indie’ doesn’t necessarily equate to ‘made with heart, but of merely acceptable quality’. That’s where, say, a Ship of Theseus – or now, a Lucia – comes along and teaches you to not look at an indie film through the lens of sympathy. No matter what the budget or the circumstances under which the film was made, if you expect someone to pay to watch your film, it better be damn good. After all, the story of your film’s making doesn’t appear in the subtitles to your film. The only story that matters is the story of the film itself; and that’s where Lucia scores heavily.
Nikhil, affectionately called Nikki, is a normal common man with a somewhat-normal affliction – insomnia. One of his nocturnal sojourns, however, leads him to something that starts giving him not just sleep, but sleep with dreams that he has always dreamt of seeing. Obviously, all good things come with a rider…
Throughout time, dreams have always fascinated artists across media, because of just how they are always open to interpretation and how no one has still fully been able to understand dreams, despite the age of advancement we live in. Lucia takes of all of that mystery and fascination and fits it into a layered - yet largely lucid - tale of ambition, desire and destiny. Drawing slightly from the quote at the start of the review, while also tipping its hat to Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Lucia is often twisted and smart, but that can often fool a part of the audience.
What truly makes it worth your time is that it has a soul; an emotional story with characters that you get involved in and whose story you almost desperately want to see the resolution of. Nikki – both ‘sides’ of him – are characters that you instantly root for, because you see where he is coming from. The same goes for the love of his life Shwetha – a woman with real, practical dreams and aspirations, irrespective of which face of her character you consider.
The film is also a pointed take on one of the fundamental truths of humankind – that the grass is always greener on the other side. One always covets what the other has, never once pausing to think about how unique and special what they already have is.
Lucia spends its first hour setting up a mystery that you quickly feel like getting to the bottom of – that of Nikki’s dreams. And it does so with zippy cuts and a fast-moving narrative that still never takes your attention off the story. In the second half – and this is where some are likely to have a problem with it – the film changes gears and focuses more on the characters. In fact, if you happen to unravel the mystery before it is meant to be unraveled, then you are also likely to feel a sense of been-there-seen-that. Despite this, the film largely holds up, because even if you see hints of where the story is heading, you are still curious about where the characters end up.
It helps greatly that the story is backed by convincing lead performances. Sathish Neenasam, who plays Nikki, completely looks and behaves like how Nikki should, at every point in the story. The pretty Sruthi Hariharan as Shwetha is superb as well. Even when her character makes choices that you may disagree with, she still manages to convince you of where she’s coming from. I don’t have the faintest idea of whether the two of them are established names in Kannada cinema or not, but they are perfect for the characters they play in Lucia. Some of the supporting cast is shaky, but you look past them because the characters they play hold fort.
On a personal note, the film is a nice little ode to cinema itself. Starting from the obvious nature of Nikki’s character (and how I’m tempted to reveal a slight spoiler here, but I won’t,) to the more subtle ways in which cinema seems to mirror real life and vice versa, Lucia can delight a true cinephile – one who sees cinema as beyond just love for and opinions about the films one sees.
The true victory of Lucia is that it manages to make you gloss over its relatively technical limitations, not out of pity, but because you are so drawn into the story and the characters. It underlines the fact that at the end of the day, the script is king. The minutes (or, if you’re lucky, hours) that you spend post the film wondering whether you’re in a dream or not are an added bonus.
This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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