• Galina Maksimovic

European Review – A Sweet Film on Love with the big L!

If you watch Julian Karikalan’s 'Love and Love Only' only as a fairy tale ode to love, you can enjoy it pretty much. However, in order to fully enjoy this cinematic sweet, you need to watch it as an ode to love for the cinema as well.

Completely independent and self-funded, with a small, but obviously devoted crew, this film has given very good results visible on the screen. By accepting the financial circumstances, the director makes very realistic and rational decisions and decides to focus on the creative circumstances of his film. The crew maybe didn’t have the latest technology to produce their film, but by the way they have delivered it, we can feel free to conclude the technology along with the budget is not the most important thing for producing a good film idea.

So, what kind of magic does Julian Karikalan use? First of all, he obviously finds the most sincere inspiration his own experience, introducing us to a multicultural, or maybe more precisely, a cross-cultural film milieu. The protagonists, who came from India to Australia, hold a good grip on our attention thanks to the vibrancy of their lives and stories. They came from the East to the West, from the world they have known since they were kids to an entirely different and new world. The immigration element of the story is already dramatic in and of itself, bringing the variety of opportunities to create the cinematic conflicts. To spice things up, the author blends the motif of cultural differences with always troublesome and interesting motif of love, imposing the question does love work the same in the East and the West? The story is enriched by social elements, as Kris (Krishna) – the protagonist, and Stacey – his coworker and love interest, come from a different family and social background. Their relationship revolves around numerous questions, all of them emerging from their descent and social statuses. But things are not black and white here – Kris, although born very rich, has to learn how to make money on his own by doing jobs he is at first repelled by; Stacey, although in a difficult financial situation, always rejected by the ones who were supposed to love her, has to learn she deserves a chance for a better life and education. In such constellation, love is what brings them to the catharsis and the most important cognitions. Things are not easy for them, but as we get highly attached to their story, we are full of hope throughout the entire film.

Obviously, Julian Karikalan has used all the potential of the story to depict the best and the worst what can happen between the people of different cultures and social backgrounds. What impresses even more than the story itself is the way the story is told. Although at the beginning the audience might feel like they are watching a regular linear narrative, they soon understand how the script is actually not burdened by the script rules of the mainstream cinema. The screenplay seems more like an excerpt from a real life than as a fabricated, fictional story. In this context, Karikalan treats the audience’s curiosity with a lot of respect, allowing them to get a deep insight into the details of the protagonists’ lives. Together with the protagonists, we can explore other protagonists’ past or dreams regarding their future. We can stay in front of the screen as the guests of their everyday lives and we can go through the catharsis along with them, understanding the messages they have for us. This feeling of a realistic atmosphere which dares to show life as it is might be the boldest trait of Karikalan’s narrative style.

Another distinctive trait of the screenplay combined with the directing solutions in this film is the perky, spontaneous humor. There are no intentional slapstick moments or obtrusive jokes we are supposed to laugh at – only natural, charming humor, mostly based on the tiny cultural misunderstandings. Looking at such misunderstandings from the distance, we can find the protagonists adorable as they are wandering to find a way out from the dramatic situations they are in. When Stacey mentions how Kris and the girl he is talking to are in the same class, thinking about the social classes, Kris exclaims: “Of course we’re in the same class!”, thinking about the school class. The present comic relieves give a good balance to the serious subtext of the film regarding the cultural differences. It doesn’t mock any of the cultures but finds what’s funny when these two cultures collide.

Having a good, well-told story, enriched by the interesting humor, Karikalan knew he had to find the appropriate actors as well, and he did. Rohit Kalia as Kris is not only persuasive but also very charming as his character changes in front of our eyes. Georgia Nicholas as Stacey gives out the strong impression of an insecure, fragile and character who wants to love and be loved. Really good actors are chosen for the supporting roles as well, with Ambika Ashtana being very appealing and witty in the role of Kannika. The cross-cultural spirit of the film is subtly shown by choosing different types of actors for characters of different descent – while the actors who play the Indian characters express more vivid energy and are “louder” in their emotions, the actors playing the Australian characters, accustomed to their environment, are somehow more silent and calmer. Another proof that the small budgets inspire the directors to big ideas!

Finally, this film was scored by Maestro Ilaiyaraaja, possibly the most prolific film composer in the world, and also the first Asian composer to score a symphony for the London Philharmonic Orchestra. After composing music for over 1000 films and obtaining numerous awards for his work, Maestro Ilaiyaraaja made a score for this film. It was the first film in English he has ever made music for. The effect of his score on this film is very notable, as the omnipresent score gives out the impression of a love fairy tale despite the realistic visual aspects of the story. The music is also an interesting blend of the East and the West, connecting traditional Indian instruments with breezy pop tunes of the West. What could inspire this famous composer, this master of cinema music, to make an exception in his career and score an indie film in English? The answer might be Love, Love for the cinema with the big L.

Luckily, good cinema exists even where the budgets are “bad”. Let’s not forget that thinking and coming up with the ideas is still free. In this case, the restricted production circumstances have pushed the small crew to work on developing the idea in the best possible directions. Having a good sense of the context they are working in, they have managed to pull out a story which doesn’t depict a relationship between a young man from India and a young woman from Australia, but also a general multicultural Eastern-Western relationship. In a different story, maybe the differences between the protagonist would be differently depicted, but the universal approach of this film, just like many other jewels of cinema, has the power of making us recall the essence of the depicted relationships and their meaning in real life. When a film can do that, the quality of the image or sound or any other technical aspect can be forgotten. The soul of the film – the protagonists and their stories – is the only thing that matters when one is making the bold, self-funded cinematic sweets.

Love, oh, love. Only through the true love for the cinema, the love on the screen works as well. This time it has worked perfectly.

Love and Love Only Ilayaraaja

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