Posted: December 12, 2004 in Uncategorized

I had read a lot about this Marathi movie, Shwas, which is India’s entry for the Oscars this year. Having a sketchy idea of the story, from the reviews, I felt that it would be a tear jerker, and did not wish to subject myself to such sentimental misery, and hence resisted seeing the movie for so long. However with the increasing publicity for the film, temptation overcame the resistance, and I went all the way to Regal cinema (after ages, I must add; after IMAX and other multiplexes have come to the suburbs, who wants to go all the way to town, and see movies in those old theatres!) to catch the one show a day of this film.

And I am glad that I did so.

For it was an experience to cherish. For me as for the 50 or so others, in the balcony for that show, including several foreigners, who must have come obviously out of curiosity about the Oscar entry movie. It helped, that the movie had English subtitles.

I do not much care for its Oscar prospects, and will not jump into celebrations were it to win the Oscar too, as I believe that seeing the movie and promoting it only because its India’s entry for the Oscars, is jingoistic patriotism, which has no place in this global and connected world. I mean, I may as well appreciate a Spanish or a French classic, if it were a great movie! Anyway, I digress.

Coming back to Shwas, it does make you hold your breath.. or almost take your breath away.

An obviously low budget film, made in regional language (Marathi), shot for most parts in a village and in Pune, yet its made with an amazing sensitivity, where you, as a viewer, are drawn into and absorbed completely, into the story.

There is the character of the grandfather, who so loves his grandson, and would do anything for the young child. He is from a village and seems overwhelmed by the big city. Not as much by its buildings and vehicles as by the educated and literate citizens, in front of whom, he feels almost servile. And yet, for the sake of his grandchild, he opens up many times, conveying in no uncertain terms, what he feels is right for the child. His fearful, yet strong, scared yet caring emotions are brought out very well by the director and the actor portraying the role. To me, he is as much of an acting star in the film, as is the child.

Yes, the child. Acting the part of the innocent village kid, who comes to the city. Fascinated by the city scenes, by the people, yet fearful, because he knows that he has some big problem with his eyes. His tantrums when he ‘knows’ he is headed for some trouble but does not know what, his fascination for simple city things that he has not seen in the village, his wide eyed swollen and silent face of helplessness, his embrace of his granfather, all appear so natural that its hard to believe that its a child actor who is ‘acting’ the part!

There are many moments in the film, where for as much as 2-3 minutes, there is scarcely any dialogue at all. Just scenes from the past, scenes which tell their own story and which require no words at all. Beautifully picturised, captivating. Even one period of 2-3 minutes of random shots, can test an audience’s patience, and here the director has used several of these. But rather than becoming impatient, as the audience, you are caught into the web of the story through such scenes.

During the scenes at the hospital, before the surgery is to happen on the child, the emotion certainly grips you. In the midst of the movie, I got conscious of the fact that my knees had gone weak, and my hair was standing on my arms. That is indeed proof of the fact that the director has managed to get the audience thoroughly involved with him, inside the story.

Another thought that I was left with, from the film, was this. That when we have something or get something easily, how little value we attach to it. Yes, that can certainly be said about vision or sight that we have and take for granted. But I also refer to material things. When you see the obvious fascination of the child by simple things like a car seat belt, or a Mickey Mouse toy, you realise that for a village bred child, all these are new things, and its a whole new world. And then when I think of myself, or specifically my kids, I realise that even a new toy or a new video game or a new computer does not excite them half as much. Simply because of the fact that they have seen so much, and the newness of anything is only to a certain extent. I am not sure if that is good… maybe not.

Shwas is a great film… it will stay with me, inside me, for a few days at least!

  1. bleu says:

    I saw this blog of yours on Sulekha. a nice review. I hope to see it soon. The part in your review about scenes in silence brought to me memories from Pather Panchali.

  2. Joe says:

    Good Review…

    I am not sure if I will have the opportunity to see it or if I will see it, if I get the opportunity !

    Thanks for the insight..


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