Kanyaka Talkies | Down on your knees
Sex and religion coexist in KR Manoj’s Malayalam movie ‘Kanyaka Talkies’
A single-screen theatre that screens soft porn films becomes a church. A nurse reinvents herself as an adult film actor. Transformation is one of the motifs of Malayalam filmmaker K.R. Manoj’s directorial debut Kanyaka Talkies (Virgin Talkies), which will be screened at the International Film Festival of India, Goa, next week and the International Film Festival of Kerala in December. Several other ideas are packed into the 115-minute movie, including sex, guilt, voyeurism, death and redemption. Also, the death of celluloid, contained in the opening credits that depict the dismantling of projection equipment as the theatre gets ready for its new avatar.
Kanyaka Talkies explores the various lives affected by this theatre—its remorseful owner, his staffers, the priest who takes over the church and starts hearing voices soon afterwards, an actor who shoots for the “bits” (sexual scenes inserted into regular films to avoid censorship). The movie ventures into territory previously explored by Ashim Ahluwalia’s Miss Lovely, and owns up to a nostalgia for a film-going experience under threat from the spread of Internet-based pornography. Kanyaka Talkies is about the “vanishing celluloid experience”, Manoj says, adding, “I haven’t overplayed that part, but the dismantling of the projection equipment marks the end of an era.”
The evocative locations are at an abandoned tea estate outside Thiruvanathapuram—the cinema itself is a storage yard which celebrated production designer Marthandam Rajasekharan worked on for several months to convert first into a fleapit of moans and groans and later into a house of god. It took just as long for Luxembourg-based sound designer Rajivan Ayyappan to put the sound design into place, adds Manoj, a self-taught film-maker who studied mathematics and mass communications and briefly worked as a public relations officer at the state electricity board. “Fifty per cent of the film’s strength lies in its soundscape, especially in the hallucinations,” he says. “There were strong fights between Rajivan and me about the exact level at which the hallucinations should be played.”
Shot by Manoj’s regular collaborator, Shehnad Jalal, Kanyaka Talkies has a technical polish that belies its Rs.1.5 crore budget. “A group of my friends supported me a lot,” Manoj says. “Had I chosen to make the film by accepting the norms and demands of the industry, the outcome would have been different. We struggled to complete the movie, especially in its last phase, and my technicians supported me in a way that none of the industry guys would have.”
Kanyaka Talkies will be screened at the International Film Festival of India, Goa (20-30 November); and the International Film Festival of Kerala (6-13 December).