A hangman's guilt
Adoor Gopalakrishnan remains among the last of Indian directors who gave class and content to the country's largely frivolous cinema that bordered on the inane.
Gopalakrishanan's latest, `Nizhalkuthu' (Shadow Kill) in Malayalam comes to Chennai as morning shows in the Sathyam multiplex. The film's high points are its beautifully simple narrative style, its sparse frames that grip your visual attention and its theme itself that engages the mind in a seemingly endless debate. `Nizhalkuthu' may at the first instance appear to be telling an oft-repeated story of capital punishment.
But a few scenes into the movie, one realises that there is a deeper variation. Gopalakrishnan picturises the pain and guilt of an old, professional hangman in the erstwhile princely State of Travancore, whose rulers were never sure that the death sentence was a fair form of retribution. They often revoked and invoked capital punishment, and in what was seen as absolute cowardice, the ruler invariably sent his order of pardon, but he so timed it that it arrived at the jail minutes after the execution had been carried out.
The ruler was absolved of the `sin,' but the poor hangman was left to shoulder guilt as well. Oduvil Unnikrishnan as the hangman portrays the anguish of having to snuff out a life, and Gopalakrishnan documents the sequences of the film with admirable sensitivity.
The structure itself has a refreshing feel, especially when the story within the story becomes a remarkable turning point.
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