Director Nithin Lukoses debut Malayalam film ‘Paka’, tag-lined in English as ‘River of Blood’, drew praise for its genre-defying tale at its premiere at the 46th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
‘Paka’ is a tale of generational bloodletting between two families in Kerala’s Wayanad district.
The gory drama plays out in a small rural town where the only common thing between the feuding families is a river where the bodies from the two clans keep showing up regularly.
The locals become so indifferent to the regularity of revenge violence that you can hear the radio music, cricket commentary and WWE matches in the distance as bodies are fished out.
In fact, the film opens with a big-moustached swimmer, named Jose, being called upon to fish out yet another body from the river, making him a sort of local legend.
As the film’s generational vendetta unfolds, the two families keep score of their dead and vow revenge.
Their bloodletting began generations ago with a fight over a girl whose hand the Vettikal family asked for in marriage. But the other family refused, setting off this bloody cycle.
After generational bloodletting, there is a twist in the bloody tale.
Anna (Vinitha Koshy) from the Vettikal family falls in love with Johnny (Basil Paulose) from the other family and they are about to marry secretly.
But their marriage plan falls apart as Johnny’s uncle, Kocheppu (Jose Kizhakkan) suddenly shows up in the town after release from jail for a revenge killing.
An undertaker-like figure, he is repentant for his crime and wants peace between the two families. Instead, his appearance after long years only reignites the revenge cycle. His body will soon be found in the river.
With love for Anna in his heart, what would Johnny do next? Avenge Kocheppu’s death? Or put a stop to the mutual butchery?
But his bedridden grandmother, who never shows up on screen, would want nothing but revenge.
‘Paka’ hits one of its high points at this stage when the old woman asks her grandson to pull out an old trunk from under her bed and then tell him: “There is a dagger wrapped in cloth in it. It’s for you. It belonged to your forefathers. It’s yours now. You must take revenge.”
‘Paka’ explores whether Johnny and Anna can close the dark chapter between their two families?
For such a gory tale, the director has done well to keep the violence off-screen.