Keshava, And A Long Rant On The Stories People Tell

This is not a movie review. Six years ago, I have stopped reviewing movies in my head and passed on the mantle to my husband, so ask him. Instead, this is a story review. After all, movies are just stories with makeup on, aren’t they? And I love the makeup, oh, I do love it. Case in point, this song:

Which brings me to Keshava, the movie, and the art of telling bold stories. In the movie, (spoilers ahead) the protagonist goes on a killing spree to right the wrongs that were done to him as a child. The cinematography is excellent. The murders give you chills. Job done.

However, there is something Keshava lacks, and that is a very strong motive. The protagonist becomes a killer because he has witnessed the gruesome death of his family in childhood. Think of all the scenes this statement evokes in your head- you’re probably thinking blunt force, rape, mob justice even. But you’ll never guess that the actual reason is far more unassuming. And by unassuming I mean that it feels more like injustice meted out by lawlessness and an evil system than a cause to wreak planned havoc. I strongly believe that it isn’t death itself, but the nature of it, that affects the people around it in the ways it does.

Which makes me wonder, would the protagonist have become a criminal anyway, and was the death of his family just a precipitating factor to do so? And why does the movie try so hard to tell us that the protagonist isn’t all that bad? If you have watched the movie, you will agree with me that all of the vengeance seems justified, but only to a certain degree and certainly not to third degree murder multiple times.

I’ve given it much thought over a period of a month or more, and two conclusions come to mind.

Image Source: Telangana Today

The first is that Keshava’s editing is all wrong. The movie makes no attempt to explain all the violence it is glorifying with extraordinary stills and even better music (see above). It makes no attempt to tell us why newfound friends are more than happy to cover up the fact that their friend is a friggin’ murderer! Honestly, what proof do they have really that he won’t have them for dessert next? It doesn't get into the murky waters of actually telling the story of a guy with a heart problem who needs to commit murder in peace. As you can see, these are tracks that play out better when read as a book than in a movie that plays for less than two hours.

The second conclusion is that some storytellers shy away from telling the gruesome end of the story while others don’t. I know- my own attempt at a novel is sitting in a cardboard box because I cannot bring myself to write the gore and horror that I know ties the story together. Some storytellers tell the gruesome story in all its gory detail- case in point, Raghavan or Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu in Tamil. If you’ve seen it, you know it gave you nightmares for years. (Completely not relevant- how did the guy who wrote the story for Ye Maaya Chesave also write this piece of horror?)

Or perhaps it is easier to narrate the gore when it isn’t the protagonist committing the crime? That could well be the case, because Keshava’s protagonist is inherently flawed of character, however hard he tries to hide it behind fancy boots. There is nothing in the world that justifies murder, and hence the other characters are made out to be worse in the movie than the protagonist himself. Why does the police officer, the heartless monster, not understand his agony? Why does the supervillian feign innocence right to the very end? Because the protagonist is a murderer, all the villians also have to be.

However, that isn’t all that bad either! Sometimes movies, as instruments that reach a wider audience than the stories they were based on, need to keep the sensibilities of moviegoers in mind. And God knows, and we know, that we would never accept a hero who turns out worse than the villian. Even in Baazigar, we manage to root for Shahrukh Khan because a) Dalip Tahil is worse and b) Shahrukh dies in the end.

Which brings me to the idea that we need people to step out and tell more of these stories. Storytelling is a craft that gets better with iteration, and movies like Keshava will finally help break away from the stereotypical fare we are fed every single day. A big shout out to Nikhil Siddharth for choosing roles and scripts that are extremely interesting, to say the least.

And if you’re not one for close nitpicking, you’ll actually adore the movie, makeup and all.