Keralan director Shaji N. Karun scored on the fest circuit a couple of years back with his first feature, “Piravi” (Birth), but his second, “My Own,” is unlikely to find the same success. Overlong and repetitive, this story of a widow grieving for her dead husband will have almost no commercial chances outside its home territory, and even fest outings may be difficult to achieve.
It’s a pity that such a film was screened so late in the Cannes fest, when exhausted viewers lacked the reserves to penetrate its ultra-slow pacing and discover the riches the film has to offer; there were mass exits at the screening caught.
Pic opens in color as Annapoorna’s husband, Ramayyar, dies painfully in hospital as the result of an accident; then color drains from the image, and for the rest of the film the present is depicted in monochrome, with color used only for flashbacks to happier times.
The couple ran a small cafe in a tiny village in Kerala (south India), their only link to the outside world the trains that pass by regularly on their way to the city of Trivandrum. After the funeral ceremony for Ramayyar, Annapoorna finds it almost impossible to make enough money to keep her teenage son and daughter fed and clothed. She loses the cafe when it’s torn down to pay debts and is forced to move in with her brother-in-law.
The sensitive son, Kannan, is advised by the kindly stationmaster to enroll in the armed forces; his best friend, meanwhile, opts out by leaving the country altogether to find work in the Middle East, and there’s a tearful farewell when he catches the train.
A great many tears are, in fact, shed during the course of the film, and Annapoorna’s continual sobbing, amplified in Dolby, becomes grating after a while. Aswani, who plays the role, doesn’t exactly give a nuanced performance, though Sarath, as Kannan, is more effective.
But the film is full of tender moments, and the patient viewer will be rewarded by scenes like the one in which the dead man’s brother, alone on a country road when a storm breaks out (in black and white) is reminded of being with Ramayyar on the same road during a storm (in color). Karun’s background as a cinematographer shows in the consistent beauty of his images.
The film would fare better with considerable pruning. India isn’t often repped in competition at Cannes, and it’s a shame that the sheer length of “My Own” makes it such a daunting viewing experience. There’s a particularly beautiful music score by K. Raghavan and Issac Thomas Kottukapally, and all other technical credits are very good.