The International Film Festival of India, which ends here this evening, did manage to screen some interesting fare. One of them was a Bengali work, Ami Aadu (Sound of Love). Somnath Gupta’s first feature, the movie engages us with its story of how George Bush’s Iraq war causes turmoil in a small Bengal village.Aadu is a young village lass from a conservative Hindu Brahmin family who falls deeply in love with a Muslim youth, Suleman. Tantrums, tears, hunger strike and hungama eventual help melt the hearts of Aadu’s parents, and the couple wed. Suleman like many others in his village finds a job in Iraq, and even as he settles down there, the Bush-
The film has been produced by Bengal’s legendary New Theatres that once made socially relevant cinema, including that of Bimal Ray. Ami Aadu is the first work from the house -- which heralded the studio system in India -- in 55 years or so I am told. Shot in the Murshidabad district of West Bengal, the movie is a lyrical love story that grips us with its simplicity of story-telling and a plot shorn of exaggeration and unrealistic drama. Life in that village where Gupta sets his narrative flows freely without any communal tension or consumerist distractions or at least largely so. Gupta captures this essence with rare beauty interspersing the romantic tale with rural India’s idyllic sensibilities.
Anjan Das’ Achin Pakhi is another rural-centric story that underlines human follies. Achin is a servant who grows up in a rich household, and is forced to own up a heinous crime that he has not committed. Cast away on a remote island by his master, Achin meets Pakhi, the lovely daughter of a fisherman. But their love, like hundreds of other romances, runs into rough weather with heart-rending twists and turns. Fine performances by Subrat Dutta and Manali Dey, who portray the angst of lovers being tossed and thrown about in a society that recognizes merely money gets the work sailing.
In a Festival that went to great lengths to say that its highlights were the retrospectives, there were some movies outside this category, in the foreign sections, that caught one’s eye. Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer has Pierce Brosnan playing a former British Prime Minister (rumoured to be Tony Blair). Brosnan, James Bond-turned-politician, essays a difficult role of having to pen his controversial memoirs. So, he hires a ghost writer, who finds the task even more perilous.
Woody Allen comes with his delightful You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger with India’s Frieda Pinto turning into a writer’s muse to get a star-cast plot breezily swinging in London. There are several couples in the film, and by the end, the relationships have all turned topsy-turvy. Anthony Hopkins charms us as an elderly guy pumping iron into his physique to get back his youth and vigour. So what if he has to pop a Viagra and wait many minutes before springing into action. Josh Brolin is the writer and even an attractive Pinto cannot really get him on the road to success. “Stranger” is indeed a wonderful comedy that reexamines ties.
Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy, set in the lushness of Italy’s Tuscany, (the first ever occasion the director is stepping outside his native Iran), traces a brief relationship between an art gallery owner and a writer. Certified Copy tries to legitimise the concept of a fake, be it in art or in man-woman relationship.
Unfortunately, much of the better cinema happened towards the end of the 11-day Festival, when many delegates and others had left Goa. If the Festival had hoped to hold them back, it did not quite succeed.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran has been covering IFFI for about 25 years)