A visually breathtaking movie artistically exploring psychological themes
Anvita Dutt’s period musical drama “Qala”, is among the most visually beautiful movies of the year; each scene resembles an impressionist painting. Regardless of whether it’s a ferry floating over the Hooghly bridge or the snow-capped Himachal highlands, or even the rich, jewel-toned hues of a Calcutta evening, the backdrop is exquisite.
The figures in the forefront are seen next after viewers have taken in the precision with which the entire composition has been put together and it might just be what defines and influences how we watch the movie.
Anvita Dutta and Muhammad Asif Ali, the writers and directors of the movie, beautifully explores the mental landscapes of the primary characters. Following the eerie Bulbbul, she crafts a musical journey into the thoughts of a girl who resembles a cuckoo and is torn between passion and talent, expectations and realities.
The musically rich psychological horror movie is set during the pre-independence period and it paints a moving picture that revolves around Qala, a young, gorgeous, gifted vocalist who ventures into playback singing and finds fame. Sadly, though, underneath all the glitz, reverence, and honors, she is consumed by her desire to succeed, tormented by her past, and is fervently seeking approval from her estranged mother.
Qala soon begins to let her mind dominate as she struggles with the demands of the movie industry, which eventually results in her destruction.
It is challenging to like or feel any sympathy for Qala and yet you do. She seems to be a parasite; a morally grey character just like a cuckoo. According to a doctor, she ingested her twin brother’s nutrients while being in her mother’s womb. Qala chooses to eliminate the competition at her mom’s place by making a terrible choice after failing to live up to her mom Urmila’s expectations, a demanding thumri musician who is already past her prime.
The vintage lyrical drama, which features strong performances starring Tripti Dimri, Babil Khan, and Swastika Mukherjee, offers an artistic depiction of pressing issues including childhood trauma, the challenges faced in mother-daughter bonds, and the ugly side of stardom.
Throughout the movie, the filmmaker handles everything with assurance. She resists the need to overdo it with extravagant twists and theatrics. Instead, she relies on a mix of inferences and clever tricks to accurately depict the fragile nature of Qala’s reality and psyche. Additionally, she employs fine symbolisms, for instance, the cuckoo to reflect our morally questionable protagonist and the boat sequence to represent a moral conundrum as the protagonist faces a challenging decision in later scenes. Additionally, her screenplay tightly controls the character’s slow slide into psychological ruin.
The threshold between being reflective and becoming ponderous is often blurry in the movie. There are some stagey elements in Qala, however, the precise screenplay keeps the meticulous narrative arc moving forward without ever letting the spotlight leave the challenges of the musician who turns to actions that worsen her bond with her mother.
The psychological horror movie is at its strongest while addressing the darker undertones of the central leads. The mother-daughter duo, both face emotional wounds that they fight against while attempting to accomplish their own and their family’s aspirations.
The creative approach to use visual elements instead of blatantly dramatic sweeps benefits the movie. It outlines two distinct portrayals of suffering: one of a parent searching for a substitute for the child she never really had, and another of a daughter fighting for the love and acceptance of her mother.
The movie’s visual richness and complexity are enhanced by the ongoing interaction of complementary colors, warmer interiors and chilly exteriors, subtle hues and grandiose glows. This also exemplifies the psychological aspects that are at work.
Qala is clearly a made-up story that swings between a feudal palace in Himachal Pradesh as well as Calcutta, an aesthetically beautiful place. Additionally, it gives the supporting cast members names that paint a picture of legendary composers of old Hindi melodies.
Chandan Lal Sanyal serves as the most renowned musician of the time, while Majrooh is a lyricist and Sumant Kumar seems to be a music composer, and to add a crown to it all, Madhubala-inspired Anushka Sharma makes an appearance in what seems like a black and white musical scene.
A significant portion of the tale takes place in Calcutta, an unfinished and also quite possibly digitally generated Howrah Bridge hovers over Qala as she bargains with a demanding composer who reckons she isn’t quite prepared yet. This is a pivotal point in Qala’s professional life. Roughly halfway through the 1930’s, the work on the cantilever bridge over the Hooghly commenced. The bridge’s two ends sticking out into the river as well as the missing link connecting them indicate that some time has elapsed.
Triptii Dimri and Swastika Mukherjee’s stunning key performances carry Qala. They dive deep into the psyche of two brave women who are equally driven and prone to vulnerability, delivering outstanding performances. Babil Khan, who is making his movie debut here, is also given the opportunity to play a talented but unfortunate singer who is proud of his capabilities in a moving performance.
Qala is a visual treat and it makes use of its medium to present psychological elements. The movie brilliantly explores disturbing subjects while presenting sympathetic morally grey characters. The performers excel in their roles and genuinely bring the characters to life. This is a surprisingly compelling watch and one of the bigger surprises this month.
Verdict - 9/10