The trend of Marathi cinema’s foray into a deeper introspection on coming-of-age stories (others being Vihir, Fandry, Rege, and Shala)** can be thought of as a watershed moment in Maharashtra itself where the community’s evolution has now gone from simply considering kids as a naïve collective who’s heads should be in books and exam papers to complex individuals who’s discovery and learning comes through exposure with the lessons of life. Killa’s main situation, of a boy and his mother who end up changing jobs and locations often is a great fertile ground to explore the main child Chimya’s restlessness and abandonment in the new community he is forced to take head on. He finds solace in a group of ragtag friends, but his timid nature and inability to socialize on a deep level leaves him to his own devices, feeling betrayed at any sign of neglect or exclusion both from his friends and his mother.
The crux of the movie, and what leads to the title of the film, is when Chimya goes on a biking race with his friends to an old fort from the British Raj, and he loses them. As rain pours down he finds a hiding place in one of the fort’s tunnels. Once he gets back to the entrance he sees only his bicycle remains. It’s a seminal moment in the film because it brings Chimya back to square one in terms of trusting anybody in the new community. For the entire time, he had argued with his mother that he wanted to go back to Pune, but once he made friends, he was slowly starting to come around. His quick decision to crawl back into his shell has negative effects on the innocent people in his life as well. His mother is discovering a wave of corruption on her legal office and her and Chimya’s connection starts to tatter. Chimya also scoffs at the food prepared by one of his mother’s friends, a moment where we realize his anger and detest has spread from his just friends circle out to the community in general.
Avinash Arun films Killa beautifully encapsulating the serene greens and blues of the coastal villages of India, and the only major grievance I had with the film is that the actor who plays Chimya definitely shows his discomfort and amateur chops (or lack of chops) on screen. He never looks the way a child is supposed to look when depressed or abandoned, rather it’s a stiff performance and can be irritating to watch at times. But this is mostly forgivable because Arun does evoke the alienated feelings of youth in new environments and the anxiousness to discover with a refreshing simplicity and a nice lack of pretense.
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