In Sanal Kumar Sadhidaran’s Sexy Durga, a North Indian girl traveling with a Keralite man (they are obviously not married) are given a lift by a group of turbulent young adults. Soon the assistance offered to the couple, in what appears like unfriendly surroundings filled with cultural tension, seems to transform into what could be an abduction…
With numerous incidents, involving violence toward women, in India, and making worldwide news, Sexy Durga uses a premise which surely creates tension right from the start, using extreme long takes going from inside the car (camera is often attached to it). It is ingenious dramatically, if technically not completely mastered, while it can be tiresome to some viewers because of the amount of screen time where we are plunge in darkness. It becomes uneasy to clearly perceive what is going on exactly, except when it turns to a more thriller-like approach (they use more light in these scenes). It is of course part of the choice of mise en scène. But the makers hesitate between pure drama (shadows work well in building this kind of dramatic tension) and thriller (it would have been more effective just as a drama). Some more traditional cinematic lighting and technique could have easily been included in the whole… or totally excluded. There was a choice to be made, they simply didn’t do it.
But, ultimately, Sexy Durga works in making us very uneasy and uncomfortable about the environment it depicts. Danger seems to lurk on every turn for that the poor woman (and her companion) may take. She may be at the wrong time, wrong place or put under stress for no reason. We simply don’t know if this group of men (or the outside environment) mean dirty business or are just plain young morons that bark but don’t bite. Getting out of this car would also mean real possible threats.
Which way to chose? The force of the film resides precisely in these questions.