On May 3, 2012, Chicago South Asian Film Festival in collaboration with FACETS Cinematheque premiered a beautifully conceived and thoughtfully directed film, Patang – The Kite.
The director, Chicago’s own Prashant Bhargava, was present to introduce his film and give thanks to the many people involved in making the film (his father produced the film, while his mother often cooked for and traveled with him on this journey to Ahmedabad), which involved three years of observation and research and took close to seven years from start to finish! He, along with the always entertaining and brilliant, Seema Biswas (Bandit Queen, Khamoshi, Cooking with Stella) and Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Kahaani, Peepli Live, New York) also entertained questions from the audience during an intimate Q&A session after the screening.
The film, which is primarily centered around the trials and tribulations of one family, takes place in Ahmedabad during India’s largest kite festival. While it poured in Chicago, the audience got to escape to the warm and colorful city of Ahmedabad, where the director was able to capture the musical sounds and people of the city, the hustle and bustle of the streets and some of the quieter spaces among homes and rooftops and of course, the thousands of the kites that painted the sky during the festival. The symbolism of the kite, as it rises and falls, breaks and is once again mended during the film, is cleverly juxtapositioned with the family’s own journey.
In my opinion, the actors and the “non-actors” (who made up 90% of the cast!) did a wonderful job of portraying their characters and some of the more heart-warming and exhilarating moments felt unscripted (we find out later during the Q&A that some of them were, in fact, unscripted!). Bhargava explains that this film comes from a “progressive spirit” and hopes that the film speaks to “the pride and the everyday magic that the people experience there (Ahmedabad) during the festival”. Here is a bit from the (sometimes down-right hilarious) Q&A:
Prashant: What’s the point that you felt that you really wanted to do this movie? What did you see in this character and this film? What was that point that drew you to this particular role?
Seema: Initially, it was not so exciting for me (and this is when the audience burst out into uncontrollable laughter, as did I – Seema Biswas is effortlessly funny throughout the Q&A, btw,) When I read the script for me, I was like there’s nothing to perform. But Prashant sent me long mail indicating about the character and all and what he’s planning to do. Mentioning non-actors and his three year research. And I thought, let me go and see what is there…these NRI people (cue audience laughter once again!). When I was there, it was really exciting and a pleasant surprise for me. He [Prashant] was playing with the slum kids and the “thoroughly” non-actors (audience chuckles) and he was like totally an Ahmedabad person. He became very popular with every person in the city, cobbler, housewife, storekeeper. His mother helped me a lot to learn about the families. The whole process, when I saw the preparation for the film, it was very exciting and very inspiring for me and I thought, let me join him. And what I understood about Sudha (her character) is that she a typical Indian housewife, but the specialty about this character is that whatever emotion she has, she never shows – like a mother never shows. As an actress, it’s like an easy-going performance, not showing any emotion, not dramatically. You cannot see the undercurrent. I must share with you, with non-actors, where it was one minute scene, I am there in character for 6-7 hours, with the camera just on. That way, it was a very unique experience.
Nawazuddin (translated by Prashant): Patang was his first feature lead role and I called him over and said to roam around Ahmadabad and “find the character” and he’s not from there so it was a challenge. He thought the movie would be conventional, where you get a line and you have some traditional blocking and you go But when he went there (Ahmedabad), it was none of that. He was thrown into the real environment and given an essence of what was going to happen in a scene and he had to figure it out. For him it was a challenge because when he worked with these (non-actors) kids, at first it would be something like “what’s going on here” and eventually he learned that he had to be that person and just respond. And when he started to let go of all those things that he had learned (in film school), just cast things aside, just become that person and emerge from that place, just react and enjoy with the kids, it was very exhilarating for him.
Exhilarating indeed! The event was well attended (even though it was a rainy evening in Chicago) and the crowd seemed to be pleased with the movie, heralding it to be “brave”, “creative”, “very colorful” and “moving”. Personally, I couldn’t agree more! As Seema Biswas declared, Prashant Bhargava “dances with the camera” and this enthusiastic and raw film-making is precisely what makes this an exciting movie to watch. At the post screening reception, the audience members shook hands and took iPhone (product endorsement) pics with Seema, Nawazuddin, Prashant and Prashant’s very proud parents.
I learned while sharing some macaroni and cheese and chicken sliders with her, that Seema Biswas is a Bengali, brought up in Assam (similar to yours truly) – yes, it’s a small world indeedy! Please watch this very must-check-out film, Patang, which releases on June 15, 2012. Tickets and Showtimes are available on www.patang.tv
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