Looking at the title of this week’s Kollywood release, you might not want to go watch Poi Paryo Kale. Many people consider the term ‘Poi’ (which means ‘husband’) derogatory whereas the entire title suggests the movie is a cheap comedy that includes a lot of racism and skin-colour shaming as a medium of making the audience laugh. The initial few minutes of the movie do not change your expectations.
While you are yet to figure out the opening scene, the narrator tells you a boring story–a black nurse took care of a girl when she was born, later a black boy pushed her into a hole and a series of over a dozen sentences, each using the word ‘black’.
But, wait till the second half and you will find the movie a fun game, with a clear social message, though the plot is essentially fictitious.
Parody of colourism
Tolerate the ‘torture’ of the first few minutes; then the movie will free you from your fear that it makes fun of someone’s skin colour to make you laugh. Rather, the movie turns out to be a parody; it attacks the narrow-mindedness of people who do not like the black-skinned just because of the colour. The exaggerated narrative about the girl’s birth and childhood also gets justified here because parodies, by nature, are exaggerated.
This movie clarifies that exaggerations do not necessarily mean something negative. In artworks, portraying an exaggerated situation can improve the effectiveness of communications. The lead character of the movie Puja Sharma (it is the name shared by the actress and her role in the movie) not only hates black people and things, but she also cries so loudly in the very beginning ‘I hate black.’ It makes the movie easily comprehensible to everyone.
As the movie progresses, the parody gradually develops into a lesson that hating people on the basis of colour is nonsensical. This part is also exaggerated and beyond what you could imagine having existed in reality, but it is capable enough of imparting the intended lesson via a unique plot.
You can sense the unusualness of the movie’s plot as you see ‘Madhyantar’ (Intermission) on the screen a couple of minutes after the curtains open. But the movie does not give you any second to think about what happened as you overhear the unseen narrator (Kedar Ghimire). He clarifies that the audience needs to learn about what happened before the first scene to call it the intermission. Then the movie goes into flashback. It continues till the intermission.
Because the exaggeration is over the top, you might find the first half boring. However, the second half improves because it involves a drama that you have never imagined. This is also an exaggeration but it is interesting to see characters of a film orchestrating another drama inside the story. It feels that Poi Paryo Kale is a metafictional work that shows you how artists create stories out of their ordinary life.
Because of the genre, you know how the movie ends–satires generally expose the truth and teach the characters a lesson at the end, leaving them disillusioned. But still, the movie is capable of keeping the audience hooked as you still do not know how exactly Puja learns her lesson. On the other hand, the impacts of her shortsightedness in the drama inside the movie are too imminent, and you wonder how she will avoid that.
If the screenwriter Shishir Rana had made the plot more realistic while retaining the unusualness, it would have been really a powerful story.
Acting and cinematography
Despite the loose story, the movie has not deviated from the focus, mainly because the key actors have given justice to their roles. Puja Sharma has been given an emotionally tumultuous role in the movie, but she has done faultless acting here. In fact, the entire movie is her journey from an illusion to disillusionment and she handles it quite well. Saugat Malla looks too gentle, perfect for his role as an orphaned but rich young businessman.
Aakash Shrestha also deserves some appreciation in the movie because he has tried a different role this time. In his previous movies, he was shown as an idealistic lover; but here he is a carefree and mischievous young man. He seems improving, but not polished yet. Shristi Shrestha is okay as an urban girl, but she has failed to make an impression.
Veteran comedian Rajaram Poudel had bored his audience with cheap jokes and confusing multiple roles in some of his recent projects including Dal Bhat Tarkari, Jatrai Jatra and Na Yeta Na Uta. He has improved this time and been able to make the audience laugh, logically. Screenwriter and director Rana and comedian Gopal Dhakal ‘Chhande’ have done justice to their roles. Experienced Surakshya Panta has been given a minor role in this movie; she has not been able to contribute as much as what she could.
As a director, Rana’s job is average because the movie, overall, is a mediocre project from the cinematographic perspective. Taking the help of an unseen narrator to connect different times suggests the director’s failure to establish the connection visually. On the other hand, he has failed to differentiate the scenes that actually happen and what Puja fears could happen. For example, an overthinking Puja fears that her domestic workers can tell her friends who her husband is before she introduces him to them, it does not happen; but the audience gets confused as there is nothing to suggest that this is just a hallucination.
Meanwhile, he has not made sincere efforts in the making of supportive characters. For example, most of the friends who act Puja’s friends do not look natural.
Poi Paryo Kale is not a polished work. However, director Shishir Rana seems to have improved from his directorial debut Timi Sanga; at least he has made a better movie than veteran Ashok Sharma’s Rato Tika Nidharma. (The movies are comparable because they belong to the same genres.)
While retaining the strengths of his story and moviemaking such as a unique plot and coverage of neglected issues, he needs to improve on reducing overdramatisation and connecting the story to real life.
Poi Paryo Kale
Genre: Comedy, drama, satire
Runtime: 120 minutes
Screenwriter/Director: Shishir Rana
Cast: Saugat Malla, Pooja Sharma, Aakash Shrestha, Shristi Shrestha, Sohit Manandhar, Surakshya Panta, Kiran Nepali, Shristi Khadka, Shishir Rana, Rajaram Poudel, Binda Khatiwoda, Shyam Rai, Gopal Dhakal (Chhande)