High Museum of Art: Films

Film Festival of India: Greatest Hits by hmablogmaster
August 31, 2009, 3:28 pm
Filed under: Film Series: High, Top Picks | Tags: , , , , , , ,

If  the High’s  Treasures From India’s National Film Development Corporation has you inspired to put together your own festival courtesy of your local or online DVD outlet, consider these selections shown over the past few years in the High’s Film Festival of India. When I checked, all were available on Netflix so they shouldn’t be hard to find.

The Terrorist
Indie director Santosh Sivan (who began his career as a cinematographer) made this penetrating, visually stunning psychological drama about  a young woman in an unnamed guerrilla group who embraces the chance to sacrifice herself for a cause. As timely now as when it was made in 1999, The Terrorist was inspired by the 1991 murder of Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.  It’s a movie less interested in politics than in exploring the question, “What kind of person would choose martyrdom and murder?”



Got a couple of hours? Paheli is shorter than many Bollywood extravaganzas, gorgeous to look at, full of folkloric charm, and its songs and dances seem fresh and unformulaic. Plus it features two superstars: Rani Mukherjee as a bride who’s been abandoned, and Shahrukh Khan in the double role as her workaholic husband and a love-struck ghost who assumes her spouse’s identity.

As the Bible says, “To everything there is a season.” Water isn’t for watching the night after a very bad day. But when you are ready to be mesmerized by a classical tragedy, to be galvanized by social injustices that continue today, Water is your movie. The third chapter in Deepa Mehta’s elemental trilogy (preceded by Fire and Earth), the film is set during the 1930s and deals with the way that traditional Hinduism assigns outcast status to widows. At its center are two characters, a child bride and a beautiful young widow who challenges convention by contemplating re-marriage.

How about Othello adapted to an Indian setting with a half-caste gangster as Shakespeare’s Moor and Desdemona transformed into a cutie named Dolly? This ingenious contemporary adaptation uses cell phones to replace the eavesdropping of the original play and features a scene in which the manipulated Cassio figure teaches the innocent Dolly to sing Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” which serves to fuel her husband’s jealousy.

OK, with the exception of Paheli, this is a pretty grim bunch of films. So let me recommend Outsourced, which isn’t a comedy for the ages, but definitely has its moments. It’s about an unremarkable 30-ish guy from Seattle who is given the choice of training a new sales staff in suburban Mumbai or collecting unemployment. The culture shock jokes have been told in other guises before, but the Indian cast is aces and the scenes in which they deal with American customers calling in orders for Wisconsin cheesehead hats and branding irons for burgers are a hoot.



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