Sameer Thahir's 'Neelakasham Pacha Kadal Chuvanna Bhoomi' is a starkly outlined parable that traverses along the rugged roads from the southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent to the north eastern mountainous state of Nagaland. Life in myriad forms lie scattered along the pathways and the voyagers come across love, camaraderie, accomplishment, defeat and death as they move closer to their destination.
Kasi (Dulquer Salman), a mechanical engineer, after much deliberation, packs his backpack and kick starts his bullet, ready for a journey to Nagaland. The disappearance of Assi (Surja Bala), his lady love, teaches him new lessons in endurance, and he decides to head over to her native land to find out what has happened to her. Kasi is surprised to see his best friend Suni (Sunny Wayne) waiting to join him on the expedition, and together they set off on a trip that would transform their lives forever.
The Himalayas sound enchating to Suni more on account of the malana cream that he has only heard of. Or atleast, that is what he claims. It all starts falling in a line the moment they begin their ride, the physical articulation of which one sees in the skater kids who hang on to the back of their bikes , or the birds that fly along a curve and the clothe lines that seem to flutter forever.
If you wanna be happy, be with a happy person - murmurs Kasi on the beaches of Puri, where Ishita (Paloma Monappa) attempts to teach him more about the surf and the sea. She, like the rest of them is caught in a metaphoric game that life lands her in - that of finding the way to a beach from the midst of a pine forest that sends them moving in loops and rounds - and comprehends that she is not the one who could hold Kasi back.
Leaving behind a broken heart in Puri, Kasi and Suni move on to Konark where the sun god shines over them in abundance. On the way to Kolkata on a dark night, Bamanghati appears nothing more than a cluster of lighted up shacks shimmering like glowworms, but down below a sordid tale of resistance and struggle awaits them.
Hashir Mohammed's firm script brings in Bimal Da (Dhritiman Chatterjee) and his daughter Gouri (Ena Saha) into the picture - living exemplars of a combat fought and lost. Branded as naxalites, the villagers continue to carry on with their fight against a mining company that had set its eyes on their homes. As the duo leaves, Da who still remembers with much adoration EMS and the comrade's song, admits that he would wait for the sound of their bikes again, while Gouri battles with a question that Suni chooses not to answer.
In one of the most arresting scenes in the film, a black dupatta seamlessly floats down the walls and windows of a professional college, sluggishly following its possessor who had thrown herself off the terrace. Love strikes at the most unseemly of events, when Kasi rescues Assi from the squirt of a water cannon, in the protests that follow. An architecture student, Assi holds Marquez close to her heart, and has learned to live with a past strewn with gun shots and blood.
Amusedly, the finest truths in the film are uttered by the least anticipated characters. Paru, the sweeper woman at the boys' hostel voices the first of them, when she wonders aloud if love and lust aren't one and the same! Miles away from her, Raghavan, a roadside mechanic in Kolkata, who lives by the nails that he strews on the road and the flat tyres that he then repairs, talks to the boys about a homeland in Kerala that he had fleed from, long back. Fearing jail, he had taken off, and years later, he realizes that the world that he lives in is no different from the jail that he has been running away from.
Kasi affirms that his destiny is invariably linked to his decisions, and continues with his jaunt. But not before he points to the road that runs to Kerala, and reminds Raghavan that there is always another chance. A smile lights up the frail old man's face as he watches the traffic moving along the road ceaselessly before disappearing into the night that lies beyond.
Assam and its borders welcome Kasi and Suni with the smell of blood, and the former is forced to reconsider the choices that he had made in life. The revelations that 'Neelakasham Pacha Kadal Chuvanna Bhoomi' have in store for us are often spellbinding. As Kasi and Suni part ways, there aren't squeals and shrieks; no tears are shed either. Having dreamt of endless sunflower farms the previous night, Suni realizes that the time has come for him to drive forward alone.
A point that is as clear as the blue sky above dawns on Kasi too and he acknowledges the fact that you can be a protector one moment and be protected the next. With no farewells and sighs, the friends drive away in two directions and none of them turn back once. For they know that the road cannot separate them.
Sameer Thahirs' film engulfs you ever so gradually, and is an impressive accomplishment that needs to be admired for its mesmeric charm. It demands a lot from the viewer, but certainly does not lead to weariness. This wonderfully rewarding study in human nature is all about discovering the tranquility that we are all on the lookout for.
There have been road movies - several of them in fact - that drive off the roads in no time and looking for some shade, park contentedly beneath a lush tree. 'Neelakasham Pacha Kadal Chuvanna Bhoomi' does not however belong to this category of films, and stays right on track, till the very end. The departures from the narrative that occur a couple of times add momentum to the account, and they accelerate the tale further forward in no time.
Dulquer continues to impress with his resonant reserve and urban charm, and is every bit the empathetic youngster out on the ultimate search for his love. Sunny Wayne with his disarming smile and naive gawk endears himself to us in no time. Surja Bala is flawlessly cast as Assi and the defenselessness that the Nagaland girl carries within her heart finds remarkable expression on her charming countenance. Dhritiman Chatterjee, Ena Saha and Paloma Monappa in cameos deliver top-notch performances.
Girish Gangadharan's frames lend a visual grace to the film as it trudges from one terrain to the next, and spans across the blue sky, the green sea and the red earth with equal elan. The effects ere at times nothing short of spectacular, and even seem to run out of breath as the climb along the hilly landscapes turn out to be a bit too grueling. Sreekar Prasad lends it the right cuts and lets the film get under your skin without much of a fuss.
'Neelakasham Pacha Kadal Chuvanna Bhoomi' is a gripping tale that is set on bike wheels. A stately, solid piece of film making that crushes generic constraints, this is majestic cinema that gently unravels with measured, mythical elegance.