9 January 2004 | Abhijoy-Gandhi-WG05
Insightful sights and sounds from India in the truest tradition of the Indian New Wave
DISHA (THE UPROOTED) - Sai Paranjpe / India 1990 (3.5 STARS) 25 December 2003: It is not often that there is a film from India that furthers a western audience's understanding of the Indian ethos. Disha does so, and does it well. In a tale of alienation and pathos, Sai Paranjpe compellingly interweaves the lives of members of two families from the same village, even as some of them migrate to for the city of Bombay to find their treasure, and improve their tribe's stock. . Mise-en-scene: Disha belongs to the Parallel Cinema movement of the 1970s and 80s and in the true tradition of the movement goes into painstaking depth to establish and introduce each character to us, sometimes at the cost of exposition. Yet that introduction is rewarding for we start empathizing for them, as we root for their aspirations and feel for their disappointments. . The typage-like feel of the characters is carefully controlled by Paranjpe who takes great care to set up conflicts of desire for issues which we in the western world would have no resource-tradeoffs for. Yet this is what furthers our understanding of the pathos of Indian rural-existence. Method-actors such as Om Puri, Shabana Azmi, Nana Patekar and Raghuvir Yadav, all icons in India Theatre and Film, lend themselves to the screen. Yet the discomfort in chemistry is there to see at the beginning of the film, but soon eases off as the characters get comfortable with each other and we get drawn in, layer by layer, absorbed by the narrative. . Cinematography: The camera has always been the conservative eye in Indian cinema. Filmmakers have been reluctant to experiment with angles, camera height or lenses, often sticking to the 50mm lens. Disha is no exception. Yet this artistic choice works, to give the film an almost documentary feel, augmenting the narration. . The brown washed out outdoor colors of India are complimented well by the saturated colors of ethnic Indian life. The emphasis on medium shots helps move away from the staged feel and allows Paranjpe to interact with the protagonists in three-dimensional space. . The Editing literally serves the purpose of joining shots. There is minimal experimentation, an absence of a role beyond matches on action. The editing remains linear throughout and the use of off-screen space is restricted. . Sound: India is a high decibel country, especially in the cities, and any good filmmaker knows the importance of playing with soundtrack. Paranjpe goes a step further and integrates the soundtrack as a narrative element, often using it to establish scenes through sound-bridges and change moods within scenes. Yet she does so with subtlety, and without the harsh overkill that we have come to expect from sound in Indian Cinema.