The furrows on his forehead, the flourishing laugh lines, the crinkly crow’s feet residing at the corner of his eyes and the extent to which they deepen when stirred. Looking at Naseeruddin Shah is like staring into a labyrinth.
There are stories, secrets and surprises in that profoundly expressive face.
I found a lot of time to observe and appreciate his physiognomy while watching The Blueberry Hunt, which spends most of its duration reporting a rifle-toting Naseer’s daily routine of feeding his Looney Tunes-addicted German Shepherd, surfing the Darknet and wondering what music he should play to the marijuana crops he’s cultivating within a remote forest of Kerala.
Given the nature of his occupation, he safeguards his privacy — CCTV-equipped estate, satellite phones — with visible paranoia.
Still, if not for the dark details, this could easily be a tale of a lonely old man and his four-legged best friend living the charmed mountain life far away from the maddening crowd.
What you see is what you interpret in software writer Anup Kurian’s second venture as director.
The Blueberry Hunt is deliberately devoid of form or context. And so there’s little information on Naseer’s character (appearing a bit exhausted if not exasperated by the mighty dreadlocks stuck to his real hair, one he sported in Kaizad Gustad’s Jackpot too). Only that everyone calls him Colonel and that he deals in marijuana supply.
But the banal conversations he has with his dog, Kuttapan Patti hint at a woman (voice of Ratna Shah) he loved and lost.
The green albeit reserved ambiance of Vagamon, its eerie quietness and the charisma of the house Colonel resides in generate intrigue that Kurian’s meandering approach, sluggish pace and rambling dialogue falter in.
Some of his narrative calls are even more perplexing, wherein an interesting character is build up promisingly only to be rudely bumped off to no impact.
Meanwhile, a contrived turn of events compels Colonel to safe keep a college girl (Aahana Kumra) abducted by his client (Vipin Sharma) and middleman (PJ Unnikrishnan) as an outcome of a professional rivalry we only hear about but never see.
Kumra’s presence brings in a hope of momentum in the absence of motivation but what follows can only be described as the wobbliest if not outright absurd take on Stockholm’s syndrome.
Kumra isn’t the problem though. Her raw appeal reminded me of Titli‘s Shivani Raghuvanshi. Except the latter’s desperation is soul crushing while Kumra’s play cute impulses and premature sympathy couldn’t be more misplaced.
Part of Kurian’s informal look at a life of crime leads to Colonel’s inadvertent interactions with out of bounds locals. Like the troika of ladies doing a census survey — the artlessness they bring to the scene is instantly charming if not meaningful.
Made at a shot-string budget, The Blueberry Hunt is typically art-house in its aesthetic with a dash of Nagaland mysticism thrown in for effect.I found its graphic novel rendering by Baburajan Muliyankeezhil a lot more edgy and captivating.
But as cinema, even if consciously experimental, it’s much too inert and latent to engage.