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Movie review: The Forest - Saibal Chatterjee - The Sunday Indian
 
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Movie review: The Forest

 

More than just a thriller
SAIBAL CHATTERJEE | New Delhi, May 11, 2012 09:51
Tags : Moview review The Forest | man-animal conflict |brutal poachers |
 

A confident debut feature from a director who clearly believes in playing the game by his own rules, The Forest is a distinctive take on the deadly man-animal conflict in India’s poorly protected sanctuaries where endangered creatures of the wild are at the mercy of brutal poachers.

The Forest
In the guise of what is a well-paced thriller woven around two men and a woman struggling to come to terms with their past, writer-director Ashvin Kumar presents a dystopian vision in which the line that separates the hunter and the hunted is a disconcerting, disorienting blur.

The Forest is, for the most part, in English, with a smattering of Hindi thrown in to enhance the local flavour of the setting. Not always easy to watch, the film has a few truly shocking images, a couple of heart-stopping moments and a trio of dysfunctional characters who do not flinch from hurling abuses at each other. The Forest pulls no punches.

While the language on the soundtrack may place it alongside contemporary Indian films that employ English as their principal medium of communication, Kumar’s disturbing thriller moulds the usual tropes of the genre to serve a purpose much more complex than that of the run-of-the-mill urban dramas about marital discord and existential angst.        

A childless Delhi couple whose marriage is in a severe limbo arrives in a serene forest retreat in the hope of sorting out their choppy relationship away from the glare of the world.

The desolate property sits bang in the middle of a deep, dense jungle where predators, both man and animal, are on the prowl. So, instead of peace and tranquility, what the unsuspecting Radha (Nandana Sen) and Pritam (Ankur Vikal) encounter is beyond their worst nightmare.

Demons of the mind and festering wounds of the heart are aggravated as Radha’s old flame, Abhishek (Javed Jaffrey), who is now a forest cop living in the wilderness with his motherless son Arjun (Salim Ali Zaidi), returns to destabilize her already shaky equations with her husband.

And lurking in this nick of the woods is an embodiment of danger that is much worse: an injured leopard out to prey on the most vulnerable creatures in the jungle. The hungry beast hunts merely for survival, but the human predators here need little provocation to unleash the mean streak that is embedded in their lacerated souls. 

The Forest has an air of steady self-assurance. The tale of love, loss and betrayal does not get bogged down by the message of conservation it delivers. The film raises questions about the indiscriminate depredations that the natural habitat of tigers and leopards is subjected to by poachers and other exploiters. It lays bare the terrible consequences for both human beings and the ecology.

In the ominous still of the night, the man-eating leopard is a blood-chilling presence that towers over all else. At times the creature’s existence is merely suggested, at others it is seen as a patchy silhouette against the trees and the walls, and then it comes into full view, growling in rage and distress.

The mammal has lost the strength to hunt like a healthy feline, so it has turned upon humans too busy settling their own scores to notice the harm that they have done to the world they live in.        

Kumar never lets go. He mounts something akin to a focused pincer attack, building the tension and suspense bit by bit, twist by twist, hammer blow by hammer blow, leading to a final explosion of violence that is as shocking as it is cathartic. A winner!

 

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017