Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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INDIAN CINEMA

Cinema In General

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Pans & Tilts…Indian Film Festival, Goal, Manoj Kumar...

The International Film Festival of India begins at Panaji in Goa on November 23 with a Cannes Golden Palm winner, Romania’s “Four Months, Three Weeks, Two Days”. Helmed by Cristian Mungiu, the movie dramatises the horror and dilemma of two university students, one forced to abort her child and other trying to help her do that during the stifling dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu. Through stark images, Mungiu builds up the tension the two girls face in a regime where abortion is a crime. Termed “pitch-perfect” and “brilliantly acted” by Variety, the film often conveys unbearable suspense without undue political sentimentality. That the suspense does not eventually lead up to unpleasant or frightening consequences may be seen by some as somewhat flat or even disappointing. But Mungiu’s remarkable ability to achieve precisely that can also be seen as an eloquent testimony of his directorial genius.

However good this movie may, it is hardly suitable to open a festival. A fest opener must be a gala, and set the mood for the magic of cinema. If the choice of an opener is not bad enough, the Goa Festival will be inaugurated by Bollywood’s Shah Rukh Khan: this despite the Festival Director, Neelam Kapur’s, assurance that she was going to keep Bollywood out.

I do not understand why the Festival could not find another person to do the honours. One of India’s greatest living auteurs, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, could have been an excellent choice, and he would be in Goa with two of his movies, a feature and a documentary.

Curiously, his latest Malayalam feature, “Naalu Pennungal” (Four Women), a grippingly sensitive study of women in Kerala, their fears and dilemmas, is not part of the 14-film Asian-Latin American competition at Goa. It will screen in Panorama. Strange are the ways of selectors.

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The two Indian movies in competition at Goa are Lenin Rajendran’s “Rathrimazha” (Night Rain) in Malayalam and Samir Chanda’s “Ek Nadir
Rathrimazha
Galpo” (Tale of a River) in Bengali. Rajendran’s narrative begins with heroine Meera Jasmine finding a mate, Vineeth, through the internet. He is a contemporary dancer, and their relationship is analysed as it passes through joy and sorrow, through hope and disappointment. The film uses too many threads to tell the story, and this may leave a viewer somewhat dissatisfied. There is internet dating, there is contemporary dance, there is martial arts, there is jealousy and there is conspiracy…

On the other hand, “Ek Nadir Galpo” is a simple straight narrative that touches the heart. It is a tale of a father’s anguish at the death of his daughter, and his fight to have a river she adored named after her. Set in rural Bengal, the movie captivates with some fine performances by Mithun Chakraborty. And, of course, brilliant visual imagery.

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We have another sports movie releasing this week, “Goal”, starring John Abraham and girlfriend, Bipasha Basu. It remains to be seen if “Goal” would score a goal over “Chak De India”, a great entertainer that avoided the usual pitfalls of Bollywood stuff.

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Tailpiece: Manoj Kumar is in the news after a long time, though for all the wrong reasons. He has gone public with his declaration of hurt and humiliation, because of the way he has been portrayed in Shah Rukh Khan and Farah Khan's 'Om Shanti Om'. The senior actor feels that he has been slighted. "By showing a duplicate of mine, and passing him off as the real Manoj Kumar in the scene of the premiere, the Khans have actually insulted not only me, but also the citizens of this great country, who consider me Mr Bharat”, Manoj Kumar laments. What conceit!

(Webposted November 21 2007)