Nicely shot, simply told, Chemman Chaalai, is a must see for all those interested in the many directions that Malaysian ‘indie’ films are taking. Billed as a “Malaysian Indian Story” this movie is simple but badly paced, beautiful but lacking emotional or psychological depth. The rather po-faced protagonist’s struggle for education and escape from ‘the estate’ is to me inexplicable in view of the idyllic plantation conjured by the scriptwriter and director. I cannot say I had much sympathy for her since the audience was given no evidence of an oppressive environment (apart from the utter banality of her domestic conditions) or some inner source of desire for learning. Despite a thin plot and depthless characterisation, the movie carries through partly because of the novelty of a ‘Malaysian Tamil film’ but more importantly deft cinematography and a delightful soundtrack. Though credible as a first effort, the production’s claim that it is “evidence of independent film making at its most radical” is unfounded. In fact in one crucial respect the movie is exceedingly conservative. So my review presents an ideological critique of the film. It attempts to understand the ‘life world’ of the film, which is the social, cultural and political frameworks assumed and promoted by it. [January 23, 2005] … More on “Elastic Reality“.