The 45th edition of the International Film Festival of India will close here this evening – after a 11-day run of movies and magic – with Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster.
The Grandmaster opened the Berlin Film Festival in February, and is one of the finest movies on martial arts, indeed one of the Hong Kong-based helmer’s best. He has earlier given us gems such as In the Mood For Love, Chungking Express and Happy Together. In fact, actors Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung helped Wong immortalise In The Mood For Love.
The Grandmaster is of course very different from his earlier works. It is driven by nail-biting action and has some the best fight sequences ever seen on screen. Thanks to the action choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping (The Matrix, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).
But The Grandmaster is not only about men flying in the air, about fists and feet. It is also about love and affection – something that Wong’s arthouse fans will simply love. The tender exchanges between the headstrong fighter Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi) and Ip Man (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) are presented as riveting relief from the brutality of martial arts. These exchanges will mesmerise viewers the way those intimate scenes in In The Mood For Love did.
There are other sentiments as well at play. Beyond the romantic longing, there is that yearning for home. It does not come as a surprise that the auteur thought of The Grandmaster when he was finishing Happy Together – his 1998 film about two men from Hong Kong living in self-exile in Buenos Aires. And that was the time when Hong Kong’s transition was all set to happen.
The filmmaker will be there at the closing ceremony this evening to receive the Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Waheeda Rehman and Malayalam actor Jayaram will also attend this finale.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran covered the International Film Festival of India for Hindustan Times)