Sunday, January 9, 2011

Out of Thin Air

Big movie industries are expanding and by investing more in content and technology, trying to lure more population into their influence circle. The harm that is caused by this is that, the products, which has to be lapped up by people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, gets molded in a way that is appealing to all. This causes a lack of cultural diversity and also a marginalization of minorities. For example, the Mumbai based movie industry, Bollywood as it is called, is reluctant to base the stories in a pure Maratha background, as this will affect its business in other markets. So in last five or six decades, the industry tried to package its products with a Pan North Indian sensibility. But a vibrant Maratha movie industry thrived and delivered goods for its people. (Case of Malegaon is also another variant in the story. They are out to beat Bollywood by aping it.) Another resistance came from Bhojpuri movies, that are also showing some positive signs of good health.
Out of thin air is a documentary directed by Samreen Farooqui and Shabani Hassanwalia, that shows the resistance put up by a very unlikely bunch of movie makers from the most distant part of India- Ladakh. Bordering Pakistan, China and Tibet, Ladakh is a place of surreal beauty and a tourist (terrorist?) attraction. But it was an unknown fact that there is a movie industry catering to the needs of 3 lakh population living there. The movie making is very similar to Nollywood, the Nigerian film movement that I wrote about in a previous post. But in Nollywood, poverty is a choice and here it is by default. ("We don't have to pay tax here." "No tax! But why?" "We don't have anything to give")

The players are from a diverse cross section of society. The movie flutters through interactions with writers, actors, directors, producers, singers and it is astonishing to see their dedication to the cause, the knowledge about their weakness, budget being the main concern (15 lakh is the biggest budget for a movie) and their confidence in themselves. ("I give 10 out of 10 for myself in dance!" says the most popular actress, who is also a home maker.) 

The only other heroine is a lady who is also a deputy in Police force! A Buddhist llama writes songs for the movies, acts in bit parts and even dances in some.("In my college days I had done a dance from Kaho Na Pyaar Hain.. and people used to call me Hrithik.") When asked for the inspiration to pen romantic songs the Monk candidly admits about a failed love affair of his college days. An action movie director never had a hit. He blames it on the trend of Love stories and sentimental family dramas, but is waiting for the tide to turn. The villain, Zuluzulu, introduces himself with the Gabbar lines of Sholey and boasts everyone calls him Sanju Baba or Munna Bhai...  

The movie is very witty, fast paced, and uses the immense beauty of Ladakh totally to its advantage. Deftly edited and beautifully scored, it is a pleasure to the eyes and ears..