By Troy Ribeiro
Film: “Algorithms”; Language: English; Cast: Charudatta Jadhav, Darpan Inani, Sai Krishna, Anant Kumar Nayak; Director: Ian McDonald; Rating: ***
Ian McDonald’s “Algorithms” is a very pragmatic documentation of dreams and reality in the world of chess championship for the blind in India.
It is about several blind pre-teens and teenage chess players attempting to represent India and then rise the ranks in a series of annual junior and senior level World Blind Chess Championships.
Narrated in a linear fashion, the script seamlessly meshes the lives of three young blind players; the well-spoken 15-year-old Darpan Inani from Baroda, the shy and reticent 16-year-old Anant Kumar Nayak from Bhubaneswar, the spunky 12-year-old Sai Krishna from Chennai and their mentor of sorts, Charudatta Jadhav from Mumbai.
The film begins with tight close-ups of fluttering fingers over the board that is designed for the differently abled at a national chess championship in Mumbai in 2009. The moves observed by the impatient and anxious onlookers captured in black and white frames sets the ball rolling.
Filmed over a period of three years till 2011, across Mumbai, Baroda, Chennai, Bhubaneshwar, Greece and Serbia, the film showcases; the trials and tribulations of the players that include their anxiety, sincerity and shortcomings, the attitude of their parents and the approach of the mentor along with his desperation.
Unfortunately, while the players are talented, they seem to lack the passion and a strategic drive to lead them to the winning path. This is well-captured in the film.
With a one-hour forty minutes run time, the unfocussed graph of the narration meanders while oscillating between the championship events and the player’s home. Coming from humble backgrounds, each player’s story displays grit that touches you, momentarily. Their stories evoke an impassive mixed reaction of fascination and intrigue as the director treats the boys as equals.
Moving on a languid pace, the images create a sense of hollowness that is haunting as well as evocative.
Photographed by the director himself, the visuals are artistic and creatively framed. The shot at the near start of the film, with the sparrows nestling in the crack of the wall where the championship is held, lends a definite meaning of nurturing to the composition. Also, some shots, like the reflection of the chess board on the dark reflective eye-glasses of the players are brilliant, but they are repeated so often that these images lose their charm.
The background score by Prasanna which has elements of Carnatic music, is effectively used to float this underdog story and the sound bytes are brilliantly captured by the sound engineer Harikumar N. Together, they are excellently layered by the director and Ajithkumar B.
Overall, while the subject of the documentation is as complex as the game of chess, the director does not seem to have delved into it emotionally. He has, in a very superficial manner, given an insight into this dark world, which we would not have otherwise bothered to visit. Nevertheless, it is a brilliant attempt in inspiring viewers. (IANS)