Monday, November 20, 2006

12th Kolkatta film festival! Somehow I am not so enthusiastic about this year’s festival as last year. Maybe I’m just tired. I feel tired. I just want to sleep, sleep, sleep. Could only start attending from the third day and that too only in the afternoon. The clouds above Nandan were beautiful. Saw a few movies. One I was looking foreword to was the movie Sonam, as it was shot in my state Arunachal by an Assamese director. The script was an adaption of a story by a well known writer from Arunachal, Yeshi Dorjee Thongchi, who recently won a Sahitya Academy award for writing.

the director has posted a clip on YOUTUBE.

The story is therefore a mature piece of work by an experienced writer dealing with the subject of Polygamy and how this tradition in a small mountain community brings in complex sufferings to those who practice it. As it was a mature subject with a very strong core human element, it demanded a subtle yet complex study of human relations. The director was unable to do full justice to a story that deals primarily with inner human feelings. If anything, it’s the story itself that carries it forward aided ably by the cinematography, which again was aided a great deal by the beautiful outdoor scenery itself. Indoors however could have come out far better than it did. The homes of the Tribal people have a distinct character and atmosphere which could have aided so much to the triangular relationship of the three characters. Even the light from the central fireplace of these homes gives so much character, which wasn’t studies at all. In a few scenes that light was used creatively, along with the smoke from the fireplace, it lifted the scene between the characters. However they were few and far between.
In the very first fifteen minutes itself one gets to see the actors not fitting in at all. They seem to be very consciously acting their roles. I met the director after the film and he told me how he did a long period of workshop to get the actors familiar with the camera. In spite of this if that was the way the actors acted then that either required a change of actors or a change of approach. The only saving grace was the two principal character of Sonam and her first Husband. They could have brought out a lot more of their characters with the directors help.
The wife’s makeup just went overboard. She had noticeable features which didn’t require makeup in the first place. And why make characters wear makeup when the setting and story itself doesn’t require it in the first place? This was a village story with hard working village people as their central characters. Where does make up come in???? It seem it is a sort of norm while making films that there has to be makeup on actors. Rubbish!! Unless the situation and story demands it, people look wonderful on celluloid without any touches to their faces.
The directors touch all over is quiet lacking and at places where it could come out, it does so with a distinct hindi film style which is very unsuitable for such stories that require a deep human study, which requires it to be subtle and not loud and brazen as in Bollywood films. With large parts of this film devoted to taking in the scenery, the director ignored to a large extent the study between the three principal characters, the very base of the film. This director like so many others seem to have a ‘Bollywood’ hangover, bringing in hindi film style movements, action and expression. This fatal influence needs to be pushed out entirely from our system for good regional cinema to come to its own and find it’s strength.

The best film of the festival?
People experience. The place? The stairs beside Nandan.
The last day I didn’t watch a single film. Just sat on the stairs and watched real life cinema! The whole Nandan area was choc-a-block with people going nowhere. It was an experience standing in a corner just watching such variety of people passing me by. Every face was a different expression. Different body languages. And this flute seller standing nearby playing away on his flute.
It was the best cinema of all and I had the best seat in the house. Nice……