Saturday, January 25, 2014

Before the Rains - A purely Visual experience ( A movie by Santosh Sivan)

A review of "Before the rains" - a 2007 English movie by Santosh Sivan

When a cinematographer directs a film, there is bound to be a profusion of aesthetic beauty. The Camera would inevitably want to rule over the story line. "Before therains" then, is a visually beautiful drama , shot in the lustrous verdure of Munnar. The story is set during the last days of British colonial rule with a "sahib" scheming to build a bridge that would lead to more arable land for spices and condiments. And in the midst of this laborious commotion around him, he finds time to woo, fondle and drool over his dusky eyed housekeeper Sajani (played by Nandita Das); a married lady of the village, who seeks sexual refuge and solace in his arms (they call it "love" in the story). TK (Rahul Bose), the sahib's local boy is witness to this degeneracy of village decorum but stays quiet; comfortably basking in the shadow of his White boss, and also on being his right hand man. Well, the inevitable had to happen soon.. Sajani's husband smells trouble and very quickly she finds herself in a morally uncomfortable position of being abandoned by all. She kills herself, and the tribal customs of the small hamlet seeks retribution. Thus the story moves, with predictable twists and virtually no turns. The end of the movie leaves you with a sense of numbing confusion : Is this a story about unrequited love, patriotism, chaos theory or simply a labor of a director who wanted to let his Camera linger sensually over mother nature under the guise of a story.

The above paragraph should not lead you to think that I disliked the movie. It had its moments of artistry. I have always had great regard for Nandita das : as a human being, an actor , her chiseled face, and not to forget those glorious , sparkling, arresting dark eyes. There is a dignity to her poise, and a selfless quality to her persona . Her stint as a teacher in J Krishnamurti's school at Rishi Valley probably gave her the depth of perception that she brings so effortlessly on to screen each time . Rahul Bose had his moments as well, but unfortunately the gifted actor in him is greatly hampered by his almost stone-like facial structure that makes it impossible for him to register more than a few passing emotions. It needed to be more fluid than that for us to really appreciate his effort in this movie. Needless to say, the two hour drama belonged to Santosh Sivan, whose prismatic eye captivates us from the first shot of a passing cloud to the last scene that ends in torrential rain. The visuals are stunning, colorful and angles that defy laws of physics. The dense atmosphere of Munnar hills, the astonishing vibrancy of his lens lends weight to this movie, which otherwise would have faded away without a whimper. In an age, when unscrupulous plagiarization is considered to be art, Sivan acknowledges in the movie credits towards the end, that this work is loosely based on a Hollywood film "Asphalt Zahov" set in the Judean desert. That is a very commendable gesture indeed. A true artist is always frank and open....

Watch this film, if you have Netflix at home. It is available in HD streaming. With a cold weekend approaching, relax in your couches with your preferred drink and feast your senses . Worth the experience.....

God bless......