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Beautiful, surreal and dreamlike, these words don’t necessarily come to mind immediately when discussing either Bollywood pictures or family dramas.  Directed by Prashant Bhargava, the Indian film, Patang is by no stretch a Bollywood movie though it has much of the heartiness and joy of life associated with those films, but it is most definitely the tale of a family seeking to heal amidst the colour and vibrancy of one town’s annual kite festival.

Jayesh is going home.  He is heading back to the old city of Ahmedabad, where it all started before he became a successful businessman.  Along for the trip is his teenage daughter, Priya, a thoroughly modern girl who knows nothing about her father’s early life and precious little about her relatives who she hasn’t seen since she was small.  The distance between Jayesh and his mother, widowed sister-in-law and her grown son isn’t entirely accidental or unwanted.  Jayesh cannot help playing the big man wherever he goes, while members of his family recall some of the unpleasant and downright ruthless things he did to achieve success.  His nephew, Chakku, a ne’er-do-well with no particular ambition but loads of anger, resents his uncle for what he sees as Jayesh’s role in his own father’s downfall.  Chakku’s mother, Sudha, is stoic and calm and a gracious host to her brother-in-law and niece, but her every glance denotes that still waters run deep and there is much she could say to Jayesh, but chooses not to for the sake of peace.  She is like a sphinx, keeping her own counsel and one senses Jayesh is terrified of the day she actually will speak her heart.  Even Jayesh’s magnanimous offer to move the entire family to a new home in the city goes over like a lead balloon.  His wealth and standing simply doesn’t impress those who know him best.  This even extends to Jayesh’s old friends around the neighbourhood who are pleased for his success, though it doesn’t really mean anything to them.  Young Priya is caught up in the lights and excitement of the festival in her own way.  A new crush on a local boy sends her off on a whirlwind romance that’s sure to last only as long as the kites stay in the air, but does her new suitor have deeper feelings?  Her exhilaration about the festival and this new romance is tampered by Jayesh’s criticism of her independent manner, which would raise no eyebrows in the city, but is cause for family embarrassment in this more traditional town.  Against the backdrop of floating, diving kites and blazing nighttime fireworks will Jayesh be able to mend fences with the family he left behind and find a better understanding of his own daughter?

Lovely, this.  It’s such an original approach to a time-tested subject, that one can’t help but be engrossed from the outset.  Patang’s a creation of many layers; there is the basic story of a family at odds and the careful walking on eggshells to try to avoid tensions that can explode into fiery accusation without warning.  We see the first strains of independence by a child whose parent isn’t ready for her to take wing like the kites overhead.  There is the visual presentation, which is absolutely stunning: The guerrilla-style shooting around the old town of Ahmedabad in the midst of the biggest kite festival in India is exciting and invigorating.  The other component is the music, from classic traditional orchestrations to highly charged, electronic Bhangra beats, the score is the perfect accompaniment to this stunning film.  Holding all these aspects together are the accomplished performances by Patang’s cast.  Only the main leads are actual professional actors with the other roles filled in by local amateurs.  The blend of the powerful presences of famous actors like Seema Biswas, whose legendary Bandit Queen is one of most acclaimed film portrayals in Indian cinema, and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, an accomplished star of stage and screen, against these fresh, untried performers is exhilarating to watch, particularly when the pros and amateurs interact.  One can see the experienced cast being kept on their toes, which adds to the realism of the piece, while the visuals, camera movement and music puts the viewer in the middle of a dream.  Still, the actors’ wonderful performances led by director Bhargava serves as an anchor that gives heart and heft to the film in the midst of all of Patang’s considerable beauty.

Beautifully acted and hypnotically staged, Patang is a feast for the senses that doesn’t fail to deliver its story of family love and healing with real warmth and heart.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

May 11th, 2012

 

 

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Photos

(Courtesy of  Khushi Films)

 

 

 

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