The passion in Raju Murugan’s voice is palpable. You can see he really cares. He really wants to mount resistance against a cartload of issues: Rightwing extremism, suppression of women, religious fundamentalism, hate politics, food politics, caste oppression, patriarchy… Gypsy has every single one of these issues crammed into it with differing periods of focus, when each of these issues are potent enough to be the singular focus of an entire feature film. Given the film’s ambition to cover a range of national issues, it almost feels like a writer moving from one paragraph to another as he makes long leaps between issues to take down. The problem here, of course, is marrying such forceful writing into a story that engages and affects. This is where Gypsy falters. Of course, it’s anybody’s guess how much of the film’s jerky shifts are a consequence of the censor board’s seemingly disproportionate wrath. Despite all the well-known delays the film has been subjected to, it’s almost frightening how relevant the film is today, and the issues it delves on: Hindu-Muslim conflict, right-wing extremism, foot soldiers being manipulated by politicians, orchestrated riots… For having the gall to take on such issues, I feel quite a bit of fondness for Gypsy and its maker.
Director: Raju Murugan
Cast: Jiiva, Natasha Singh, Sunny Wayne, Lal Jose
The eponymous hero of this film, Gypsy (Jiiva), is a unique Tamil cinema character. He is, as the name indicates, a gypsy, whose nomadic existence takes him across the country. You could argue that Gypsy is posited as the ideal man by this film. He’s a man without a last name, without a religion or caste. He speaks several languages and can do many jobs. Perhaps because society and its humans can scarcely understand him, his closest friend is a horse named Che (no points for making the evident connection to that over-romanticised Cuban revolutionary, Che Guevara). Guevara’s name and his photograph have, today, been turned into symbols of uprising, with pop culture understanding of him conveniently neglecting his many far-from-ideal actions. I briefly touch upon symbolism here because this is a film that shows quite a bit of understanding about how symbols work. You can see this through posters of Gypsy’s concert. More importantly, you can see this through two photographs from a riot coming to be seen as symbols of oppression. A victim, Waheeda (Natasha Singh) begs in fright, while the assailant bears over her with a weapon, thriving in his power. Gypsy digs further into these two characters, and tries to understand the people they are, and how the aftermath of such a riot would work out for them. It’s fascinating that the film gets into these spaces.
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For the remainder of this review (and there’s a lot more left, I assure you), please visit https://www.cinemaexpress.com/reviews/tamil/2020/mar/06/gypsy-movie-review-strong-ideology-in-a-not-so-strong-film-17394.html