Saturday, June 23, 2012

Patang [2011]

MPAA (Unrated)  Roger Ebert (4 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing -
Roger Ebert's review -
India Times - 

Patang (directed and cowritten by Chicago-born and raised Indian director Prashant Bhargava along with James Townsend) is a lovely Indian movie (subtitled into English) set around the annual kite festival in the Indian city of Ahmendadad.  The film is a reminder to me of one of the main reasons why I like movies so much: India may almost exactly be "a half a world away" from the United States.  But for the price of $10 (or even for $6 for a pre-noon matinee) one can "go there" for 2 hours by means of a movie.  Then if the movie's made by someone from that country then all the better.  One gets to see the country through the eyes of someone from there or with an attachment to there.

Such it is with this film.  We get have Prashant Bhargava tell us a story about his family's India.  And indeed, the story's structured in a way that it could have well been his:

Jayesh (played by Mukund Shukla), who's "made good" in India's capital Dehli, comes back after many years to more "provincial" Ahmendadad, the town of his birth, taking his oldest daughter Priya (played by Sugandha Garg) already of young adult age along.  The nominal occasion of the visit was Ahmendadad's annual Kite Festival but he's really there to reconnect after many years with his relatives.

And yes, there is some resentment as he returns.  A brother asks "Where have you been for all these years?"  Yet he _is_ back after "all these years."  And the resentment melts away as Jayesh and his daughter join their relatives in the timeless rhythms of life in Jayesh's family's hometown, a rhythm that is at relative high point as its residents, both the young and the old, the poor and the rich across the whole city go up to their roof tops to fly their kites, eat good food, no doubt drink some good beer/ale, and gossip and reminisce with family and friends as they fly their kites.

Now mind you, sometimes those kites crash.  Sometimes neighbors both near and far _help_ make those kites crash in what is called Patang (from which the movie gets its name) meaning "kiting fighting."  No matter. Ahmendadad is a largely treeless city with very narrow streets.  Folks freely hop from rooftop from rooftop, saluting their neighbors families, eating and celebrating there, as they pass until they reach downed kite.  Then with a few bits of tape, some new string, they're ready to fly their kites again.

Indeed, some can use the strategic downing of a kite as an occasion to flirt :-).  Having your kite crash down the street a few houses from a particularly attractive girl gives one a nice excuse to hop rooftop-to-rooftop to pass by her place to retrieve your kite, to say hi to her family, show-off your kite, and so forth ;-).

At then night, those kites offer the opportunity send aloft whole strings of paper and candle lanterns, again a lyrical sight to behold

It all makes for a lovely, lovely film ... and for the cost of $10 and two hours ... one gets to be part of this lovely contemporary Indian family, with its all too contemporary problems (a lot of us have family members who "disappear" from the family radar for some time only to eventually decide that "it's time to come back") and join its joys as well.

What a joy of a film ;-)

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