Last week I faked a sick leave to watch Rocky after being massively impressed by its trailer that I first saw nearly a year ago. Rocky – in a nutshell, is a revenge saga. But this piece is about what makes Rocky stand out from the other usual south Indian revenge-action flicks.
Here's the story: The movie follows Rocky, who just got released after serving 17 years in prison for brutally murdering his boss's (Manimaran) son. Rocky wants to get back to his sister Amudha – his only family and lead a peaceful life. Rocky finds Amudha, but the joy is short-lived. Manimaran, who has been waiting all this while for his chance to avenge his son's death, gets Amudha killed right in front of Rocky's eyes. Rocky finds his world shattered, for the only hope that he had left is now no more. This loss turns him into a madman. All the pain built up over 17 years of imprisonment explodes at that very moment and he starts on a killing spree, mutilating every one of Manimarn's henchmen as he finally makes his way to Manimaran. Just then Manimaran reveals to him that Amudha has a daughter named 'Malli'. What follows is a war between Manimaran and Rocky, one's mission to avenge his son's death and the other's to protect his only chance of a beautiful life.
But this is not the point. The point is how these emotions are translated through to the audience. The point is also about how visually brilliant this movie is.
The movie starts with a flashback to Rocky's childhood where his sister Amudha recites a story about Eagles. Amudha says, "You know eagles have a lifespan of 20 years. They go through a slow and painful process before death. The feathers start to wither away. The skin starts to disintegrate. They become too weak to fly and find food and eventually die of hunger and weakness. But if an eagle can fight hard and stay alive through this phase, it can start growing new feathers and skin. It can then live happily for as long as 70 years." This sequence beautifully communicates the entire essence of the film. This is a film about survival and hope.
In the scene after Rocky is released from prison, he is just walking on the streets, and there's wind blowing. Even in this usually pleasant scenario, we feel a sense of fear. The faintest sounds are the scariest ones when we're alone in the dark. They give us a sense of Rocky's dark and lonely prison life.
The loneliness, this struggle is evident throughout the film. It's on the lonely beaches without footprints. It is on the patchy old walls, the half-broken windows, the abandoned and dilapidated structures. It is also in the rusty knives. We witness it everywhere.
In the sequence following Rocky's release, we get a beautifully staged and shot surrealistic montage about time. A phrase in the montage goes, "Time is a wretched sinner. Time is a whirlpool of lies the world has been sucked into. To a free man, time is a happy flowing stream. But to a man in confines, time is an immovable mountain when every second feels like a thousand years".
One can feel the depth of pain Rocky is feeling. Time has made Rocky his daemon. He is its predator and prey. One can wonder if it is the thought of getting back to his sister and normal life that has kept him alive and preserved his sanity.
Another beautifully acted sequence is when Rocky meets his sister Amudha. Amudha first asks him to leave her alone and not ruin the life that she's worked hard to build for herself. But in those words, we also sense her longing for him. We know she won't let him leave. She can't help but turn around and call him in. There's this calm within Rocky. There's also the guilt for leaving her alone, for not thinking about her before committing that gruesome murder. He hesitates to look her in the face until all the guilt comes out as tears. Even this interaction between them is a beautiful 12-minute long single shot.
We find a gentleness in Rocky too, in the way he talks or looks towards Amudha's daughter, his last glimmer of hope after Amudha's death. We feel his emotion of wanting to go to any lengths to protect the little one, who metaphorically is also his gateway to peace and freedom.
The gorgeous-looking ultra-wide external shots don't just show us the vast emptiness of Rocky's world but also tell us how insignificant human anger and ego are in the grander scheme of things.The most surprising and interesting aspect was the meditative pacing of the film. It is the reason that sets it apart from the usual fast-paced, high adrenaline action dramas. It creates an air of calm amidst all the chaos and brutal killing.
But even after all the analysis, the question remains unanswered. Why did the movie leave me more calm and hopeful rather than angry at Rocky? I don't know. I guess this is the beauty of well-crafted, well-written cinema, and this is why we all love movies in general.
We get introduced to the world of a murderer. We witness all his horrible deeds. But in the process, I guess we realise that we are all humans, and maybe there's a tiny bit of Rocky in all of us. And we try and hope to be a better person for a better tomorrow. There's hope that Rocky will become a better person, if not for himself, then for little Malli in whom he sees his mother and sister.