Nasir - International Film Festival Rotterdam review

★★★★★

Directed by #ArunKarthick

Starring: #ValavaneKoumarane

Film review by Nathanial Eker


Nasir is one of those films, no, experiences, that shakes you. Measured and middling, this earnest, brave piece of filmmaking delivers a formidable message that’s as shocking as it is affective. Important in more than one sense, this seminal character study of an everyman who becomes a victim of something larger than himself should be seen by everyone and anyone. Nasir transcends the boundaries of the screen to craft a crushing tale that's both commentative and allegorical.


Nasir is a Muslim living in Southern India where Hindu nationalism reigns. He’s a simple man; a salesman, a husband and a father, characteristic of the harshness of the class structure. As extremist groups and religious factions occupy the streets with propaganda, we follow him through an average day. He cares for those he loves and stays admirably optimistic in spite of his troubles.


Director Arun Karthick transforms the mundane into a setting primed for escalating tension. Every street is isolated, claustrophobic, oppressive. The camera too joins in, as Karthick films on a 4:3 frame, squaring the screen and creating a sense of immediate discomfort and unease. Yet, there is beauty in his simplicity; vibrant colours and a vivacious mise-en-scené characterised juxtapose a bubbling undercurrent of darkness.


Extreme close ups are favoured, showing the audience an unflinching impression of the lives of those less fortunate. Nasir himself bookends the story in a tragically poignant long shot that initially seems odd, but comes full circle in a devastating manner during the shocking climax. As he’s suppressed by the intolerant, he’s equally oppressed by the camera, as vast wide shots of mountains dwarf him.


It’s through the characterisation of Nasir, and the commendable performance of Valavane Koumarane that the film soars and devastates. In just 85 short minutes, Karthick crafts the quintessential everyman; he struggles at work, he smokes, he has a son with learning difficulties, yet he’s an optimistic philosopher, reciting poems and dreaming of a better life. There is something in Nasir for all to relate to, as Karthick births a face of discrimination. Not a perfect face, not a superhuman without temper or want, but one that’s wholly human, and wholly innocent.


Nasir is a bewildering journey with a bold statement. Slow and thought provoking, the mundane events of this simple man’s life become paramount to the recognition of the individual; the personality, the quirks, and the joy lost when a human being is reduced to a statistic. If you’re able to see Nasir, you owe it to yourself to become immersed in this exceptional work of art. With luck, the distribution of its vital message will be a small first step towards a less brutal world.



#NathanialEker #IFFR #IFFR2020