x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Former oil rigger tells the tale of one man and his goat

The satire focuses on a disillusioned farmer and his prized animal.

Murali Nair turned to film after quitting an oil rig. Delores Johnson / The National
Murali Nair turned to film after quitting an oil rig. Delores Johnson / The National

ABU DHABI // Murali Nair's Laadli Laila is the story of a man and his goat.

The film is a social satire about an impoverished farmer, Kalyan Singh, who is disillusioned with his family and authority. He spends his days taking his prized goat from veterinarian to veterinarian. The animal, he believes, is the descendant of a goat gifted to his ancestors by a king 500 years ago, and he is concerned about Laila's ability to produce the next generation.

The role of Singh is played by acclaimed Indian theatre actor, Raghubir Yadav, and was shot in less than a month in the Indian city of Hyderabad.

Laadli Laila(Virgin Goat) tells the story of Kalyan Singh (played by Yadav), who spends his days taking his goat from veterinarian to veterinarian. The animal, he believes, is the descendant of a goat gifted to his ancestors by a king 500 years ago, and Singh is concerned about Laila's ability to produce the next generation of prized goats.

Laadli Laila is the first Hindi script the director has worked on. His previous films, including the Malayali film, Marana Simhasanam (Throne of Death) was a critical success and won him a Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1999. But it was criticised in India, particularly in Kerala, for disparaging communism. 

Nair, who worked briefly as a geologist, turned his attention to films after despairing over the loneliness he felt while working on an oil rig off the shores of Mumbai. 

"I got fed up of the subject," he said. "It was well paid, but very lonely and very monotonous, with just water around me. I never thought I would spend so much time alone."

After quitting his job on the rig, he travelled through India for a couple of months before settling in Mumbai to work on films.

"It was not easy. I am not from a privileged background, so my parents were very upset. I could not face them for two or three years," he said. "It was not the aura of filmmaking that attracted me to it. I had lots of stories to tell. The way stories were being developed in my mind, the way I was writing stories."

He said the journey of Kalyan Singh reflected the journey of a person within society and himself. 

"As the film progresses, it becomes more emotional and intense," he said. "I see it all the time in individuals - their conflicts with society and organisations."

Abbas Khan, the first assistant director of the film, also travelled to Abu Dhabi with the crew for the screening of the film last night. After watching some of Nair's films, Khan wrote to Nair asking if he could work with him. 

"This is one of my favourite projects," said Khan. "There are lots of aspects that I like about the film, including the comedy, surrealism, the way the satire stood out and the way it was conveyed."

Laadli Laila will receive a second screening at the Marina Mall at 7.30pm today.

sbhattacharya@thenational.ae