What is Capital I? A lot of characters contemplate this during the run time of the film. Like “The Zone” in Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979), Capital I is a cross between concrete nothings and abstract somethings. It is a physical space as mentioned by some characters, a place where people disappear but it is also a transcendental space where the character’s mind checks in to never check out. Director Amartya Bhattacharya (who also has the writing, editing and cinematography credits) is, to tweak the famous words of Kris Kristofferson, both a poet and a painter. He uses both these skills to create this audio-visual experience that appears to be part truth and part fiction. There is ample poetry narrated on screen through voiceovers which mate with the abstract art on the canvas and give birth to this audio-visual delight.
A character wonders what the I in Capital I stands for; for the film it can very well be said that the I is intrigue. It is also ideation, a trip into the mind of its creator and his musings about existence in general. Which is why, a plot summary of the film will be futile and counterproductive when making a case for it. How does one summarise an abstract notion? One can only hope to be swayed by the waves it sends through the dialogue and visuals (waves are also a recurring motif in the film). Still if the premise is to be mentioned then the film is categorised as an existential psychodrama, and its plot revolves around Capital I, a ‘place’ where people go missing and the investigation by a teacher of psychology and his young student.
For people who look for a linear plot or what the theme of the film is too be interpreted as, Bhattacharya probably gives the answer through one of his lines his character says in the film “his thoughts are poetic, I don’t think his words would be definitive”. Through its runtime, Capital I boldly takes you to territories uncharted (at least in the context of Indian cinema) and doesn’t mollycoddle or hold your hand as you tread the path. And at the end, it does not give the easy resolutions one is quite used to. Instead, it lets the audience think about the individual concepts of time, human psychology, science vs art and sexuality that the film raises both through the narration and the brilliant visuals. The visuals cut between sculptures in temple to caves, and white sand beaches to barren lands. The language of the film is also fluid, technically it is an Odia film, but characters also switch to Hindi and English (the poems used in the film are in English).
If you are wondering why Indian cinema does not consistently produce content to match the best in the world, it is probably because a marvellous piece of original artwork like this is on YouTube, without the recognition it is worthy of. While Tarantino, Wes Anderson and Tarkovsky inspired derivative pieces are being helmed as cinematic excellence. My proposition to lovers of cinema is this: find this film on YouTube (it is uploaded by the director himself and like very few good things in life is available for free), watch it and then ponder about the whine that I mention at the start of this paragraph.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.