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LIFF 2016: Reviews Part I – Parched; A Girl In the River; I am not he, she; Cinemawala; Ringan

LIFF 2016: Reviews Part I – Parched; A Girl In the River;  I am not he, she; Cinemawala; Ringan

July 22 2016

Our reviewers watched the following films at this year’s London Indian Film Festival…the festival continues in Birmingham until tomorrow…see the listing below…

PARCHED
parchedfadjFOR A FILM that explores the harsh treatment of women in rural India, ‘Parched’ is surprisingly funny and uplifting. Director Leena Yadav beautifully intertwines the lives of four female characters, widower Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee), barren Lajjo (Radhika Apte), prostitute Bijli (Surveen Chawla) and child bride, Janaki (Lehar Khan) who experience all forms of female oppression from gang rape to domestic abuse.
However, set against some stunning cinematography by Titanic cinematographer, Russell Carpenter, this is a touching story of women who defy social norms and slowly but surely take back control of their lives. ‘Parched’ will have you laughing, crying and everything in between at the most unexpected moments – but will leave you with a feeling of optimism and hope. (Tasha Mathur/TM)
ACV rating: ***** (5 stars out of 5)

A GIRL IN THE RIVER: THE PRICE OF FORGIVENESS

A_Girl_in_the_RiveradjIF YOU WANT evidence of the power of film, this is definitely one to watch. In Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s Oscar-winning documentary, we get to hear the rare voice of a victim who survived an honour killing after being shot and callously dumped in a river by her father and uncle.
While we follow Saba’s (pictured) journey as she decides whether to forgive them, (which would legally acquit them of all charges) we fall in love with this resilient 18 year old and her husband’s family, who selflessly take her in despite the danger. Obaid-Chinoy takes us away from the statistics and gives us a very personal account of everyone involved in an honour killing. Yes, the mentalities of some of the men will infuriate you, but the fact that this film has opened the discussion on whether a family’s forgiveness is enough to free the perpetrators of honour killings, shows us that this is the beginning of positive change. (TM)
ACV rating:****

NAANU AVANALLA AVALU (I AM NOT HE, SHE)

Naanu_Avanalla_Avalu_2adjTHIS  is carried by an extraordinary performance of Sanchari Vijay, who morphs from young female-identifying boy Madesha to transgender woman Vidya (pictured).
Based on the true story of Living Smile Vidya (a transgender woman with finer features than the stocky Vijay), Madesha escapes rural village life for Bangalore, succeeds in getting the sex change operation she yearns for in a back-alley hospital straight out of a Ramsay Brothers film; but discovers that while she has become the woman she always dreamed of, life as a transgender woman leaves her with only two options – begging or prostitution, all the while beset by police harassment and public abuse.
It’s often bleak, but director BS Lingadevaru never resorts to pity or heavy-handedness. The indignities on-screen are left to make their own simmering case, leavened with lashings of mordant humour and sheer gritted determination from a memorable supporting cast of non-actors, most notably, Sumithra as imposing matriarch ‘Nani’. (Sunil Chauhan/SC)
ACV rating: ***½

CINEMAWALA
CinemawalaadjOPENING with a credits sequence overlaid with scratches, flickers and hairlines to mimic ageing film prints, Cinemawala is director Kaushik Ganguly’s keenly melancholic tribute to the single-screen, celluloid-projecting cinema halls of West Bengal. If that sounds like filmiphile indulgence, it soon transpires that it’s merely a backdrop for a bigger battle between ageing, obstinate cinema owner Pranabendu (Paran Bandopadhyay) and his entrepreneurial, DVD-bootlegging son Prakash (Parambrata Chatterjee). Disappointingly, Ganguly isn’t interested in making audiences aware of why film or single screen cinemas might matter, but the simmering conflict between father and son, who until now have mostly avoided each other, is brought to a satisfying head in a climactic scene where the pair finally confront their generational tensions. Pranabendu sneers at his son’s pop-up screenings of “fresh, hot films” and his lowly career, while Prakash is frustrated by his father doggedly ignoring his ideas for the cinema’s future. But if Pranabendu freely mocks digital technology, Ganguly has already accepted it. ‘Cinemawala’ is not shot on the old-fashioned reels it grieves, but clean strings of 1s and 0s. (SC)
ACV rating: ***

RINGAN

Ringanadj A FILM on fatherhood that keeps the plight of Indian farmers in the periphery, ‘Ringan’ centres on the bond between farmer dad Arjun (Shashank Shende) and hot-tempered son Abhimanyu (Saahil Joshi). Director Makarand Mane stirs in themes of the futility of faith, the meagre rewards of low-paid work, parental models and child abandonment, but the constantly fluctuating tug of war between Arjun and Abhimanyu remains the core.
It’s a quiet, compassionate film set in a world that often isn’t: Arjun needs a job to earn enough money to buy back the family’s land from a developer or faces losing it forever. An early setback arrives in the form of a deceptive stranger, but the film is largely about the kindness of others, which might be why, for all the questioning of faith, Mane set it in holy town Pandharpur. His helming is steady, even and without ego, and if ‘Ringan reaches’ conclusions more reassuring than expected, this is hope tempered by realism, not sentimentality. (SC)
ACV rating:***½

More LIFF 2016 reviews

LIFF 2016: Reviews – Brahman Naman; Kutrama Thandanai; Arshinagar; CRD; Toba Tek Singh

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture