Wednesday, October 28, 2009

London Film Fest Day 15 - THE WINDOW / JANALA

THE WINDOW / JANALA is the latest film from Indian art-house director Buddhadev Dasgupta - a modern day Satyajit Ray, if you will. The film moves at a slow lyrical pace, and is a warm-hearted chronicle of the absurdity of life for the ordinary working class folk in modern day day India. The film opens with an intimate portrait of a couple, happy in each other's love and happy to be having a baby, even though they have yet to get married. It's a shocking scene for people used to conventional Bollywood movies in which you never see such real intimacy but song and dance numbers. The woman works in the modern India. She's a call centre worker for American Airlines, listening to the abuse and ignorance of western callers, saving hard for their marriage and child. The man is in the India that has been left behind. He has no family, no home, and a life working in an old folks home miles away. He's a lovely, innocent guy, and decides to donate a picture window to his old village school - a window he can't really afford. The film shows follows the man as he has the window made and tries to deliver it, and works as a kind of picaresque tale, as he comes across all manner of people. The India that Dasgupta is portraying is one of endemic corruption, theft and poverty, where acts of kindness occur, but the good will always be swindled.

What I love about this film is that is never shows contempt for its characters - even the thieves - and while it shows a fundamentally hopeless situation, it still manages to be warm-hearted. The main character, who could so easily have been an unbelievable child-man, actually seems real. With a light touch, Dasgupta tells us more about social injustice than all the angry docs and issue-movies in the world. And he entertains us to boot.

This is one of the best films I have seen in the festival.

JANALA played Telluride, Toronto and London 2009.

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