Its not every day that a black and white Indie that has been in the making for over 4 years, helmed by a debutant director with constrained budget and unfamiliar names gets unanimous positive feedback from everyone who views it. Having done rounds of International film festivals, having won prestigious award, KSHAY (which roughly translated means Corrode) finally opened in select theatres across India. The movie was riding on high expectations as almost everyone who had seen it spoke promisingly about it. Being released under the PVR Directors Rare Banner, does Kshay impress?
Across the country, millions live with trifling incomes, leading an inconsequential existence, coupled with powerful ambitions. The limited means vis--vis the growing desires, so much the heart hopes to achieve that the mind just can at most times not rationalize with. Amidst all this, the country is bound by superstitions, religious beliefs, relying on the Supreme Being to make everything better giving us a blind albeit threatening hope. But what happens when a need, a want fueled by the religious beliefs turns into an obsession? How much is too much? How far does the yearning to achieve the unobtainable take a person and how does it ultimately end? This and some more such questions form the crux of the 90-minutes narrative of Kshay which crafted beautifully is a poignant mystery about relationships, human emotions, desires and well, obsession..
We are quickly introduced to the love between a young artist Chhaya (Rasika Dugal) and her construction worker husband Arvind (Alekh Sangal). Despite being barely able to make daily ends meet, Arvind is increasingly affectionate of his wife, while Chhaya asserts to her husband that she is happy with the life they share. A subsequent miscarriage and resulting infertility creates a deep void in the couples life. Chhayas unresolved grief sees a ray of hope when her neighbor mentions of a woman who bore a child after she prayed to Goddess Lakshmi (known to be the bearer of prosperity, good luck and fertility). Please bring me my Lakshmi Chhaya pleads incessantly referring to an unpainted statue of the Goddess that she is mesmerized with, she believes is the only cure to her misery but costs a price way beyond the couples meager income. Torn between the love for his wife and an almost empty pocket, Arvind must find a way to fulfill her wish before Chhayas faith toes the precarious line of desperation into self-destruction.
The film belongs completely to Rasika Dugal who is extraordinary as Chhaya. Every scene of the film is completely dependent on her ability to carry it thru and she nails it to beyond perfection. Especially in the scenes without dialogues, her eyes depict volumes of the turmoil her mind is going through, her blank expressions tugs at the heart so earnestly, you want to reach across the screen and shield her. Alekh as the supportive husband is arresting, relatable and very real. He banks on his few moments onscreen, standing encouragingly in the sidelines in others, never overshadowing but rather playing the perfect anchor to Chhayas character. In one of the finest cameos, Nitika Anand playing the next-door neighbor Shruti puts a fine performance softly swinging between concern and fear for her suffering friend.
Kshay is one of those few films where every department competes within themselves to stand out. If the performances are the USP of the film, direction by debutant director Karan Gour and cinematography by Abhinay Khoparzi enthrall with their ingenious treatment. The background music also scored by Karan himself; is cut out to perfectly enhance Chhayas moods going from desire, helplessness, guilt to irrationality as she contemplates multiple ways to get what she wants. While Kshay dives right into the subject at hand, Karan takes his time in establishing the various stages the human mind goes thru between sanity and delusion. Carefully avoiding any spoon-feeding, never going overboard, Karan makes sure every scene is with a purpose that lingers in the mind much after. He gives us time enough to stay with the protagonist, to feel her vulnerability something that is so powerful that it gets your stomach in knots but quickly enough distracts us with an optimistic scene that engages us to stay with Chhaya on her subconscious quest for a better life.
The movie has a tight agenda and hits home with it. There is no dilly-dallying, poking around in sub-plots. Theres no doing that sort of thing, but Karan instead chooses to narrate the haunting story of obsession with pokerfaced precision and bouts of sublime humor. I dont just admire such movies, I cherish them. If Kshay had wavered or had been toned down to make it subtle, it wouldnt have had the kind of hysteria, overwrought melodrama that it deserves, that makes it a completely satisfying watch.