Set in the tsunami-ravaged Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Ocean of an Old Man is an artsy flick with Tom Alter in good form and great cinematography. An old man, the sole inhabitant on an island wrecked by the ocean, with leafless dead trees for company, exists for what seems like the sake of it.
Director/scriptwriter Rajesh Shera takes you back in time to when the old man had a wife and daughter, and depicts the two being devoured by the waves without actually showing it. The old man is a school teacher whose spirit is crushed as he learns of the fate of some of his students, who have also been taken by the sea just like his family was.
He goes to a neighbouring island in search of the missing children, and comes back without them, having completely unexpected experiences. The sea unleashes its fury on him, knocking the old man out cold with powerful waves and his boat is swept away to yet another island, where he witnesses an old tribal ritual of people dancing around a bonfire and digging up their dead and chanting mantras to appease the ancient spirits.
The old man, despite having been asked to evacuate the island like everyone else, is unwilling to do so, and remains the only one on it.
Ocean Of An Old Man is a very offbeat movie, just right for film festivals. In the beginning, Tom Alter is shown as the only person on the island. A ship passes by, but instead of trying to get its attention like one would expect him to, he commands the ship to be silent. The film then goes back in time, showing children and other inhabitants till the time the schoolteacher is marking attendance – in an empty class.
Tom Alter is in good form, but unlike Tom Hanks in Cast Away, isn’t shown as having any skills to survive on an island where there is almost nothing left. The dialogue is minimal, and the lingering silences are taken to great heights by Tapan Vyas’ cinematography. The countless shots of the sea have been placed and paced so well that they make for repeated viewing. The colour tone is not very bright, and far from making things dull, it is another thing that works in favour of Shera’s film.
The script does leave quite a bit to be desired – more life could’ve been infused in Alter’s character before the tsunami hit – it would’ve made his post-tsunami behaviour more impactful – like the scene where he lets go of the oars and lies back in the boat. Also, adding a few memorable characters would’ve made for greater viewing pleasure, instead of focusing solely on the main character. However, director Rajesh Shera does manage to express himself rather well, minor flaws notwithstanding.
VERDICT: Art cinema buffs will want to check this out, and if you’re looking at an introduction to artsy flicks, Ocean of an Old Man should give you a pretty good idea of what a non-Bollywood film is like. Watch it for Tom Alter’s performance and Tapan Vyas’ cinematography. It’s a film you won’t easily forget.