Director Raam Reddy’s magic realism in ‘The Fable’

The universe conspired to present both disruption and inspiration right when filmmaker Raam Reddy, known for his National award-winning Kannada film Thithi, was set to weave his cinematic spell with his second creation, The Fable. The project embarked on an ambitious journey in March 2020, as the cast and crew, including the prominent talents Manoj Bajpayee and Deepak Dobriyal, commenced shooting amidst the rustic beauty of Mukteshwar, nestled in the Uttarakhand region of the Himalayas. However, their journey faced an unforeseen twist as the world came to a standstill due to the national lockdown, effectuated by the global health crisis.

Stranded in this remote locale for an impending three months, their reality blended into scenes reminiscent of their craft, as life on set screeched to a halt and took a back seat. Reddy recounted the peculiar sojourn during his attendance at the 74th Berlinale in Berlin, where his film graced the Encounters section. He recalls the serenity of turning to nature’s canvas, engaging in heartening activities such as badminton and long walks, a surreal detour from their three years of diligent preparation.

The essence of The Fable is entrenched in magic realism, an art form that paints a dream-like tapestry streaming through the regular mystique of everyday existence. Bajpayee portrays the perceptive Dev, an estate owner confronted with peculiar challenges, his orchards besieged by insects, along with mysterious fires that disrupt the mundane. Dev cultivates an otherworldlike passion — crafting life-size wings designed to soar above his estate, which symbolizes an escape and also, a unique form of vigilance.

Set in the year 1989, the characters in The Fable navigate through a realm intertwined with unpredictable events. The film embraces multiple languages, Hindi, English, and Pahari, as a nod to the diverse linguistic palette of the region. Reddy, celebrating his 35th year, draws parallels between his childhood, spent in a coffee estate, and the social fabric of The Fable’s Himalayan setting. His personal experiences molded the narrative into a space where the boundaries between reality and magical realism blur effortlessly.

At the heart of it all lies a childlike innocence and curiosity, further revealed through Reddy’s childhood influenced by a cousin’s tale promising the growth of wings upon reaching the age of twelve. This film is, in essence, an intricate fusion of Reddy’s cherished memories and the fanciful universe he aspired to inhabit.

Priyanka Bose stars as Nandini, Dev’s wife, embodying a soothing presence, juxtaposed with their two children. Dobriyal, the estate’s dedicated manager Mohan, radiates the moral backbone of the storyline, guiding the audience through with his compelling voiceover. The cast’s selection reflected Reddy’s quest to connect with a broader spectrum of viewers, transitioning from Kannada to Hindi cinema, alongside his desire for actors capable of transformative performances.

Each actor brought unique elements to their roles. Bajpayee’s versatility and philosophical intrigue resonated with Reddy’s vision. Dobriyal’s reactive expressiveness perfectly complemented the ‘cage’ that Reddy designed for him, ensuring a portrayal grounded in authenticity. Meanwhile, Bose’s intuitiveness and penetrative gaze amplified the depth of Nandini’s character.

The unexpected standout performance, however, is credited to Tillotama Shome, whose portrayal of a village woman, a cameo lasting less than ten minutes, anchors the storyline with its intensity. She personifies the film’s namesake, as her character narrates a fable to her children, encapsulating the multi-layered essence of the film.

The Fable beckons audiences into a world where fantasy borders on the edge of reality, crafted through the alchemy of Raam Reddy’s cinematic vision, now waiting to unfold across global screens and captivate hearts with its timeless tale.

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