The 14th year of this energized film festival, as always, brings out modern and ancient India, and its roots, neighbors and Diaspora. The festival, with many features, documentaries, seminars, interviews and premieres, this year offers work from Pakistani, Sri Lankan, and Nepalese directors as well as films from regions of the Indian sub continent and from those living abroad.
Director Anurag Kashyap, also a screenwriter and producer, is drawn to hard topics about India, including his 2004, Black Friday, about the bombings in Mumbai in 1993. Kashyap’s Ugly, seeming a police procedural, is also, as the title tells us, about reality that has no easy name. It is basic, ugly, terrifying. Ugly tells a story of a child’s disappearance, by focusing on the fraught relationships between the men and women who look for her - her mother, step-father, father, his girlfriend and more. The mother is imprisoned, virtually, in a marriage to an enraged police chief, a violent man who was once bullied by the child’s narcissistic father. Each one, it is revealed, has complicated feelings about the loss of the child. Though Kashyap tells the story as a thriller, in chalky, darkened pastel-hued lighting and using a swiftly moving cut-up method that reveals the story in pieces, the film is also a scathing commentary on modern India’s politics, in which violence, sexual slavery, poverty and human degradation seep into every part of life and very part of current capitalism.
This is strong film and a good choice to open the NYIFF.
Well worth seeing.
The Unseen Sequence
Dir: Sumantra Ghosal
98 min., In English
This documentary, directed by Sumantra Ghosal, who began his career in advertising, focuses on the dancer Malavika Sarukkai. Having trained for years in the ancient dance form, Bharatanatyam, Sarukkai has branched out into new modes of dance around these classic movements.
A fascinating look, especially for those unfamiliar with Indian dance, at the core language of ancient Indian dances, how they underpin relationships with social ideas about gesture, and how they are re-interpreted today.