October 16 2016
New film depicts India (and Mumbai) as a difficult and awkward place for those who wear their faith lightly or not at all, but also shows joys of father-son relationship and hope for a kinder place…
LET ME TELL you something – there are Indians who are not religious – there are even some atheists.
And there are many like the central couple in the film “A Billion Colour Story” who are ‘religion agnostic’.
Anyway, you don’t need to know anything about religion to enjoy “A Billion Colour Story”.
It’s very well constructed film with a clear and very traditional narrative arc. It also has a brilliant aim – to sing again about the poetry of India.
For many this is India, its myriad faiths, languages, cultures, festivals, its sense of itself as one big, huge melting pot and the creativity, poetry and song that emerges from all that.
That at least at one level is the message most Indians (and others) understand – even if in practice, as the film depicts so clearly, it is quite well short of that mark.
Narrated by the wonderful and very endearing 11-year-old ‘Hari Aziz’ (Dhruv Padmakumar, the director’s own son), this is a cry for a better India, and a big-hearted world that has love, acceptance, and kindness at its core.
Yeah, we could do with more of that in the context of Brexit here too.
In fact, what “A Billion Colour Story” touches upon is really a world phenomenon, the increasing intolerance and anger and bile that exists even in every-day life, more so in the political sphere and results in a more divided, suspicious and inhospitable world.
What this film manages to do is to pull you into all of this, without you being aware of the politics that may be at play.
Hari Aziz is the product of a mixed marriage, his mother is Hindu and his father is Muslim. His name confuses folks who don’t understand that two people of another faith could be together. They met in film school in Australia and returned to India because they love their country.
Perhaps ironically, they call themselves ‘Indophiles’ – and certainly this would be recognisable to anyone not Indian but who has a certain affinity for this country that is not their own.
Writer-director N Padmakumar produces believable characters and as in “You are My Sunday” (also screening at the London Film Festival), shows Mumbai/Bombay as this great intersection of cultures, languages, beliefs.
Once upon a time nobody thought anything of it.
Nowadays, with housing societies in the city very strictly managing admissions, it’s very difficult to find anyone from outside your own professed faith (what if you don’t have one?) next to you.
Imran and Parvati, Hari’s parents, have to undergo the dispiriting process in all its ugly manifestations after their circumstances change. No looking at the content of your character here – ‘Hindu, okay, Muslim, bad’ or ‘Muslim okay, Hindu bad’.
The couple are trying to make a film and find it increasingly difficult as the religious differences (in the eyes of others) intensify.
There’s a wonderful little cameo from co-producer Satish Kaushik (best known in the UK for “Brick Lane”) who plays a rather superficial Bollywood type film producer who praises Imran and his independent actors, but then proceeds to say nothing can work without a star presence.
Hari feels his parent’s pain, and decides to intervene at a point when almost everything appears lost.
But for a slightly uncomfortable ‘unveiling’ (may be accurate, but is politically sensitive) and just the one too many scenes about the soulless process of asking folks for money to make a film, this is beautifully pitched and has a very strong likeable core.
It deserves to be seen widely and if yesterday’s showing at the London Film Festival, is anything to go by – where it received a standing ovation reportedly – it will and rightly so.
Its final message of hope and a belief in the idea of India – is one that should not be lost on anyone.
ACV rating: *** ½ (out of five)
‘A Billion Colour story’ screens today at 6pm, NFT 2 (BFI Southbank).
Check listings/tickets for #LFF (ends today): http://www.bfi.org.uk/lff