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Day 7: Biffes, 2009

Final day of this year’s festival and I chose, rather aptly perhaps, Gulabi Talkies as the last movie I’d see at Biffes, 2009. Girish Kasaravalli’s adaptation of a Vaidehi’s story is one of the better films to have come out from the state.

Umasree is Gulabi, the effervescent, politically-naive mid-wife whose love for the cinema can only be matched by her innocence. Deserted by her husband, her dreams of every day begins and flourishes in the cinemas. After performing an emergency pregnancy she receives as gift a colour TV and a dish antenna.

She suddenly becomes the focal point of this small fishing village. Woman folk and children flock to her hut while their men discuss if it is good or bad. Even her husband returns to her for a while lured by her new acquisition. The TV plays serials, movies and cartoons. In one of these channels, the news keeps reporting the Kargil war and Gulabi is blissfully immune to any growing communal friction in the village.

The growing discontent over fishing waters and the religious tension feed off each other and Gulabi gets caught in the crossfire. For a significant latter part of this story, the “Gulabi Talkies” gets lost in the commotion.

Kasaravalli’s film begins as a quiet, interesting story about dreams, but embraces more universal issues as religious tolerance and globalisation. As if a toy snatched from a child, the idyllic setting for a good story is shattered by the focus on these issues. In another storyteller’s hands this might have strangled the film entirely. But Vaidehi, Kasaravalli and Gulabi herself lend a credibility to it and it lives quite well.

Overall, the Biffes have been a great success. There weren’t many films that had empty seats in them, at least at Vision Cinemas. The retrospectives of Kim ki-Duk, Aki Kaurismaki, the Iranian films and a few individual entries were quite a surprise. The retrospectives being such important pieces in the “cinema education” of the many “normal” people who visit the festival, last year’s Julio Medem was matched ably by ki-Duk and Kaurismaki.

The Indian selection had some panorama entries, but not many were exciting. I wish I had seen Kanjivaram though, it would have meant one more Indian film to review.

Iranian films continue to amaze. We may have become used to Makhmalbaf and Kiarostami, but the vast amount of talent there shakes and stirs.

My favourite films of the festival:

1. Song of Sparrows, Majid Majidi

2. Tuya’s Marriage, Wang Quanan

3. Gulabi Talkies, Girish Kasaravalli

4. Tulpan, Sergei Dvortsevoy

5. Breath, Kim ki-Duk

Those that got away:

1. I served the king of England

2. Machan

3. Three Monkeys

4. Kanjivaram

5. Spring, Summer…

6. Juha