Saturday, October 29, 2005

Black Day

Back in February, I made a passing reference to the great buzz around an Indian film called Black. I didn't manage to catch it in the cinema in the UK, but I did pick it up on DVD when we were in Dubai in April.

What a brilliant movie it turned out to be. It is the story of a stubborn teacher (Amitabh Bachchan) devoting decades to rescuing a stubborn deaf and blind girl (Rani Muckherjee) from the isolation of her condition and bringing her to a richer relationship with the world. These two actors deliver perhaps the finest pair central performances that I have ever seen, and I can understand now why Amitabh Bachchan was voted the greatest ever star of stage and screen in the BBC's millenium poll above Laurence Olivier, Alec Guinness and Charlie Chaplin.

I took the DVD down to Cardiff and watched it with my Mum and Dad, who haven't had my immersion in Indian movies, and they loved it as well.

I'll be astounded if a better film was released last year and I was sure that its nomination - and certain triumph - as the Indian entry for the best foreign film Oscar was assured. I'd give it the overall best film gong if it was up to me.

I was amazed to learn this week that a film called 'Paheli', of which I had never even heard had got the nod ahead of it.

It seems that I am not the only one. This interview, from the Indian press, with the chair of the committee who made the decision contains the following leading questions.

How could Paheli be nominated over more deserving films like Black?
How could Paheli compare with Black on any level? Look at Mr [Amitabh] Bachchan's performance in Black.

You can tell that the interviewer is singing from the same sheet that I am.

When you consider that Black is also a lot more immediately accessible than any other modern Indian film that I have ever seen and that parts of it are in English it seems to me that the powers that be in Indian cinema have shot themselves in the foot here. This could have been a breakout on the scale of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

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