Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Indian Film Fest Tampa Bay 2012 thoughts

So, my experience at the film festival was very mixed. I didn’t make any new friends (sad face), I decided to be gori (no Hindi, no salwar), I liked the films I expected not to and I didn’t like (at points hated) the films I expected to like.

Here’s what I thought of the films, briefly:

Paulwaat (The Pathway)
- Marathi (with Hindi; see below). This film was OK in snatches, but it was really long and unnecessarily drawn out. It was also kind of all over the place and barely cohesive at moments. It was like the narrative flow (a singer searching for success in Mumbai, which gets old after about his fourth up-and-down success-then-disappointment) kept getting interrupted for platitudes over and over again. There were some unresolved issues at the end (such as the love story) as well as poor explanation of some relationships in the film (such as who the love interest was/where she came from!) that drove me crazy. The film dipped into Hindi and Urdu a lot, especially with particular characters, which I found interesting (and refreshing). (Side note: as someone struggling to pick up Hindi as a third language, I have a very deep respect for the many Indians who speak and understand three or more languages.)

Patang (The Kite)
- Gujarati (?). Well, first off, let me say I’m now confused about the language of this film because it was billed as Gujarati and it’s set in Ahmedabad, but I could understand most of the film, so unless Gujarati and Hindi have a large overlap (I know zip about Gujarati) or it’s a Hindi-Gujarati blend, the film is actually in Hindi. Anyway, this film is about a family during the kite festival Uttarayan. The description bored me, and it doesn’t do the film justice. The film is really about the complex relationships in one family — middle-aged businessman Jayesh, who has moved from Ahmedabad to Delhi; his teenage daughter Priya; his aging mother; his older brother’s widow Sudha (Seema Biswas, the only actor I recognized); and his nephew Chakku — who come together, butting heads and reconnecting, during a visit for the festival. Chakku hates Jayesh and blames him for his father’s drinking death. Jayesh buys his mother and sister-in-law a condo in the newer city to get them out of the slums, but they refuse. Delhite Priya sneaks away and falls in love with local storeowner’s son Bobby. All of this is contained in the festivities of the kite festival, which are portrayed in detail and with great care and love. The film’s camerawork is very loose and artistic, something that drove Papaya (who was with me) crazy, but I liked it. So, yes, Patang is a winner in my book.

Love, Lies and Seeta
- English. This is the film that I had such high hopes for as it was made by an NRI in New York. But it turned out...practically incoherent. It was filmed in the space of 25 days. And it shows. The story is about three guy friends and roommates who all think they’re in love with Seeta, an Indian-American girl adopted by white parents whom all three men met at a different point in childhood. But the problem is Seeta doesn’t believe in love. So she agrees to date all three men — who increasingly fight over her — at the same time, much to the chagrin of her two closest female friends, who are each in love with one of the men (the third man is just...there). Add in Seeta’s zany brother (her parents’ child by birth) for comic relief.

So, first, the film was really not Indian at all. Seeta is only Indian in looks and the fact that she randomly wears a sari in one scene. Two of the men are Indian, as is Seeta’s friend Ramia. The guys have Bollywood posters and one speaks very intermittent Hindi with Ramia (who botches her Hindi). And the other one has a fantasy about being Lord Rama (I think).

Most of the supporting actors were good, but Seeta, though amazingly gorgeous, is kind of painfully bad. Her brother is nuts and not really like a brother at all (I treat my acquaintances with more affection). Her dad is creepy.

Add all of that on top of the fact that the plot becomes too convoluted — juggling three love stories, Seeta’s disbelief, each of the seven main characters’ life complications, Seeta’s mom dying, flashbacks to childhood — and it just becomes too much for me.

I will say I liked the premise and where it started and also its portrayal of
New York.

And to end it, two shorts that I liked of the very few I actually got to see:

Satee Shaves Her Head


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