Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Emerging Cinemas And A "Not A Review" Of Amu

I had a chance this weekend to watch an English language movie "Amu" written, produced and directed by Shonali Bose. But before I go on to the movie, I probably should tell you a bit about where I saw it and the story behind the theatre.

The city of Wilmington has just one cinema, TheatreN at Nemours. I had heard about this place and that it showed independent movies, but never had a chance to watch one there till Saturday. A bit about this theatre

The last movie theatre in Wilmington, The Rialto, closed in 1982 and was later demolished. Twenty years later, movies return to Wilmington
with the opening of Theatre N at Nemours. Located in The Nemours Building at
CityCenter@Wilmington — 1007 Orange Street — the theater underwent renovations that include new seats, painting, carpeting, movie screen and a concession area. It
is located on the first floor of a 14-story building in Downtown Wilmington
formerly owned by the DuPont Company.

It really is a converted auditorium and the box office is a table with a cash counter outside the auditorium. I kind of liked the informal simple look of it all. The concession stand was inside the theatre at the back. But the best part of this? A small popcorn, soda, candy, they are all a dollar!
Can you beat that at the multiplexes? But that is not all, the theatre is a part of "Emerging Pictures". And they have a rather neat concept.
Emerging Pictures is a filmed entertainment company for the digital age. Representing the fusion of independent film methodology and the latest digital technology, Emerging Pictures will be a major supplier of original content to traditional media outlets and a pioneer in aggregating content for future delivery systems, including its own network of digital theaters that are being created inside of existing arts institutions--Emerging Cinemas.
I actually agree that this is where movies are headed. I recently watched Deepa Mehta's Water, streamed live via Netflix and found the experience thoroughly enjoyable. Not to digress, but Theatre N is als only 5 miles from our place and parking is only a 1$ when you watch a movie there. Sweet eh? Both *A* and I agreed that we would come here to watch more movies.

On to the movie..

Amu” is the directorial debut of Shonali Bose and I found the story of the genesis of the movie as fascinating as the movie itself. At the heart of the movie is a sorry chapter In India’s recent past. This was the brief period after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, India’s Prime Minister in 1984.

To those of you unaware of the history here, Ms. Gandhi was killed by two of her bodyguards who were both Sikh. This was done in retaliation for Operation Blue Star, which was conducted against the golden temple the holiest of Sikh shrines in an attempt to flush out militants. This was a bloody battle that caused considerable damage to the shrine.

In the 4 days following Ms. Gandhi’s killings, Sikhs in Delhi were targeted in a progrom mostly led by members of the Ms. Gandhi’s Congress party, and by some estimates close to 3000 Sikhs were killed. To date justice has not been done and like often happens in India, commissions get appointed for inquiries. They have appointed 10 commissions for this instance alone, which is one way the Indian government has avoided responsibility. Leaders have apologized, however that is not the same as justice being served.

A synopsis about the movie from its web site below.

Amu is the story of Kaju, a twenty-one-year-old Indian American woman who returns to India to visit her family. The film takes a dark turn as Kaju stumbles against secrets and lies from her past. A horrifying genocide that took place twenty years ago turns out to hold the key to her mysterious origins.

How were Kaju’s family involved in the killings? What happened and why? Who were the culprits? Who benefited? Will Kaju have the courage to pursue the truth no matter the cost? Will it destroy her relationship with her mother? Will it affect her burgeoning romance? Will it change everything she knows about herself and about India?

I loved this movie, Kaju is played by Konkona Sen and she does an excellent job here. The great supporting cast of actors is mostly veterans of Indian cinema/stage and television, except for Kaju’s mother, Keya who is played by Brinda Karat (who is a leftist politician and the director’s aunt) in her debut and Ankur Khanna who also has his feature film debut as Kabir, Kaju’s friend and potential love interest.

The movie is in English with subtitles where other languages get spoken. I did have a little trouble following the rapid fire way in which some Indians speak English but once I got used to it, it was ok.

I did think Shonali Bose does a great job and I could not tell easily that this was her first feature. There were times I thought the camera work and sound could have been better, but this my opinion purely as a viewer. Also when you read what went in to the making of this movie (link), it is truly a labor of love and the technical imperfections (if any) do become secondary.

Konkona Sen comes thru with a strong performance as you see her transform from a typical 20 something fresh out of school young woman who is fascinated with her land of birth to a person trying to understand her adoptive roots which becomes an emotionally wracking journey.

Kaju’s journey in to her past begins with her visits to a slum in Delhi, where she suddenly starts recalling memories from a time long gone and has nightmares about it.

The questions she raises threaten her relationship with her mother and to reopen old wounds that really have not healed. We watch, as her quest for finding out about her parents, bring her close to Kabir. We watch as his disdain for her desire to experience the real India thru her visits to slums and their documentation on her video camera, gradually change to tenderness and love.

There are a few other threads that run thru this movie that were not quite explained. This could have been due to the fact that the original movie was close to 3 hours. One unexplored issue was the silent tension that exists between Kabir’s parents that one notices especially when the topic of the 1984 riots comes up. This evasion in Kabir’s father is something that recurs amongst other characters in the movie and often seem emblematic of a bigger problem in societies not just in India but also here of not willing to confront sordid episodes in their past.

The drama in the movie builds towards a climactic evening that culminates in the truth being laid bare and secrets revealed.

We also see the power and strength of the bond between a mother and her adopted daughter, and of how it is possible to love someone else’s child as one’s own and the truly transcendental nature of love.

The scene of the railroad tracks that you see in the picture on this post is pivotal in the movie. This is the place where a memory is seared in to a child’s consciousness and where in the present she comes to terms with her past, and I saw it as a metaphor for a new beginning.

It is likely if any of you see it you may see this movie differently but I doubt that you would be unmoved. As for any of you wondering why the name “Amu”, telling you that would be revealing too much.


Lotus Reads said...

Popcorn and parking for a dollar each? I'll say you guys got yourselves an unheard-of-before deal, I'm amazed this is only your first visit there, but I can see it will definitely not be your last!!!

"Amu" was playing her a short while ago and I so wanted to see it but it didn't happen, perhaps I'll have to rent it from Blockbusters. I don't know what made me think it was about the Partition of India, but your brilliant (not a) review tells me it has more to do with the 1984 riots and has increased in me the desire to watch this film. Konkona Sen, IMO, is one of the best contemporary Indian actresses and I make sure I see all her movies. Another one of hers you may enjoy is "Mr. and Mrs. Iyer" with Rahul Bose (another fine actor) as her co-star.

I had to smile when you mentioned not being able to follow the rapid fire way in which some Indians speak English...my daughters are quick to point out that I speak much too fast when I am speaking to fellow Indians, so you're probably right

Thank you, Sanjay, for this wonderful write up...I wish we had netflix here, I would have requested this movie be sent to me immediately (if it is out on DVD).

Sanjay said...

@Lotus. Thank you so much for your comment.
I agree thats a nice deal eh? I don't know if you have heard about the movie "Vanaja" that is also going to be shown here, along with some French cinema. So we will be there more often.

The movie has 1984 as its pivotal moment in how it alters human lives and continue to do so long afterwards.
Thank you for telling me about "Mr and Mrs.Iyer", I have added that movie to my netlfix queue. :)

:-) @your speaking too fast. *A* sometimes does that too and our friend will tell her to slow down. :)

Thank you for your comment about the movie, I am sure you will enjoy watching this one.

The movie is not out on DVD yet I think, but maybe in a few more months?

Sugarlips said...

You are so lucky Sanjay, popcorn, soda, candy and parking for a dollar.

I love Kokona Sen, she is a great actress. Have you seen her in Page 3 and Omkara? As Lotus mentioned "Mr. and Mrs. Iyer" was good too and I love Rahul Bose :)

Stay Beautiful...!!

MONA said...

I have yet to see that movie. Now That I read your interesting rieview I am eager to see it. Alsi Water. It is sad it cudnt be shot with the origianl cast.I hope the new cast did a justice to that one!

Diana said...

Wow. What an amazing sounding movie. I'll try to see it. I hope Netflix has/will have it.

Wow. Movie snacks for a buck! That would have been cheap 20 years ago.

moegirl said...

I really like that theater concept, (and the prices!) Sounds like a wonderful movie. We have many theaters in Portland, but most of them are huge multiplexs where you can see the same movie.

Asha said...

Happy 4th Mister!!:))
I am back and just recovered enough to say hi to everybody!
Amu sounds interesting.Konkana Sen is a great actress.

AVIANA said...

Thank you so much for the review. I will definitely look for this to view. I'm always looking for new movies to view that are not in the mainstream. Since I'm currently fixated with India, this is great for me.... Thanks...have a nice weekend!


Dr. Mad said...

im waiting to see the movie.

Id it is said...

I'll most certainly watch this one.Thanks

Madelyn said...

one dollar films - wow!

I am moving!

Your decription of this film was
excellent and I am going to see it -
you covered every thing so well!

Madelyn said...

one dollar films - wow!

I am moving!

Your decription of this film was
excellent and I am going to see it -
you covered every thing so well!

Hollydolly said...

Can only dream of popcorn, soda, candy and parking for a dollar here in Canada. Fantastic write up as usual Sanjay. Two more movies to add to my TBW list. I don't think AMU came to Ottawa, quite often a lot of "Foreign" movies only make it to Toronto. I could be wrong. I will certainly be looking for the DVD release. Going to Check blockbusters for Mr Mrs Iyer. Friday night is what we call "Hindi Night" in our house. Every Friday we pick up take out from our favorite Indian restaurant and watch a Hindi movie.Can't tell you how much I enjoy watching Shahrukh Khan dancing his way across the big screen, Brings a whole new meaning to TGIF.........

Watched "Partition" the other night, WOW, what a great movie.....

BTW has the book arrived yet....

Anali said...

Sanjay, thank you for letting me know about "Amu." It looks like an amazing movie. I hope it makes its way to Boston soon!

That is so incredible how the funding came through for the film! It was meant to happen!

Sanjay said...

@sugarlips, thank you for your comments. I have not seen the movies you talk about, but I may try Mr. and Mrs. Iyer.

@Mona. Thank you. I saw water a few days back and liked it as well.

@Diana. I think it is not out on DVD yet, but it will be soon am sure. Yes those snacks are good for that price. Managed to catch another movie there this weekend.

@Moegirl..Thank you, we had heard of this place over an year ago, am kicking myself for not having gone there till now.

@Asha. Thank you and welcome back.

@Aviana, thank you. I hope you are having a great weekend as well.

Sanjay said...

@ Dr.mad. Thank you for visiting, I hope you enjoy the movie.

@Id it is..Thank you, hope you like the movie.

@Madelyn. The ticket is $5 and the refreshments are a $1. Thank you for your comments, I hope you like the movie.

@Sylvia.. Thank you so much for your comments. Sorry I could not get back to you before.
Wow @ your Friday movie and dinner night! I am so fascinated by that, I might totally shock you perhaps, I have not watched a mainstream Bollywood movie in ages, but I have seen a few with Shahrukh Khan back when. :)
And yes the book did arrive on Friday. I so want to thank you, will write to you soon. Thank you for the book and the good luck charms they are beautiful! *A* asks me to say thank you to you.

@Anali, Thank you, I sure hope it comes to your fine city. The movie truly is a labor of love.

Keshi said...

I love Konkana Sen...great actress. Have u seen her movie 'Mr & Mrs.Iyer'?