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June 15, 2012


patang 1.jpg

The Kite
Prashant Bhargava - 2011
Khushi Films

The threads to the kites in Patang get tangled and cut, much like the main characters in the film, not always directly or on purpose. Taking place over the course of two days, with most of the activity concurrent with an annual kite flying festival, the film serves as both a family drama and casual documentary. Past and present coexist sometimes uneasily in sprawling Ahmedabad. Successful Dehli businessman Jayesh returns to visit his family, with his daughter, Priya. His real intention is move the family members from their crumbling mansion to a new condo, a plan that the Ahmedabad relatives resist.

The conflict of happiness, be it that which is chosen, and that which is perceived by others, is not unique. In its own very casual way, Patang's narrative portion recalls the films of Douglas Sirk, where material well-being is often mistaken as the solution for any spiritual void. The more interesting, if not fully developed character, is Priya, who primarily observes the world through the lens of her Super 8 camera, finding that neither her family nor Ahmedabad are quite as described by her father. The film takes place in the older part of the city with crowded streets, where the occasional free cow shares the street with the pedestrians, motorcycles and mini-taxis.

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Shot primarily with HD camera, the footage is interspersed with 16 mm film, with rough focusing and frequent camera flare, is meant to represent the film shot by Priya. Part of the film serves as a documentary about the making of the kites, with finely cut glass attached to the kite thread, which allows for cutting in the festival kite wars, but also means that those handling the kites have heavily bandaged fingers to protect themselves. One of the nicer images is of the sky full of kites, looking like a sky full of colored birds crowding over the city.

Perhaps as an informal concession to Bollywood tradition, the soundtrack is full of pop songs composed for the film. As the lyrics were not subtitled, I can only assume that some of the songs served as commentary. There were scenes of dancing, none formally choreographed, of a trio of young women, including Priya, on the roof of the family house, answered by a trio of young men on another roof, and dancing in the street as part of the festivities.

In a film that is mostly about family and cultural traditions, nothing speaks more about globalization than the Spiderman mask that a street urchin wears constantly as a cap. Bhargava's film raises more questions than can possibly be answered regarding the trade offs one makes in life. Additional commentary is presented by two absent characters, Jayesh's brother who was too attached to outmoded ways doing business, and Jayesh's wife, unable to break away from a wholly westernized life for even a few days. The kites provide a metaphor for those working with, or destroyed, by both literal and symbolic winds of change.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at June 15, 2012 07:15 AM