India Uncut

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Saturday, February 12, 2005

Let’s try again. Amu

Sorry for that.

The best film I’ve seen in recent times, by a long shot, is Amu, the debut film of Shonali Bose. I won’t scatter superlatives on the film now, because I don’t think I’d be able to do it justice. But, briefly, let me comment on an actress and a scene.

Firstly, Konkona Sen Sharma is the best actress in India. I’ve seen her in three films so far – Mr and Mrs Iyer, Page 3 and Amu – and she’s been marvellous in each of them, performing with subtlety and nuance, and slipping into the skin of her characters with such ease that one hardly notices her acting. So it is in Amu. What a pity it is that she has dropped out of Mira Nair’s forthcoming film of Jhumpa Lahiri’s Namesake, but what a blessing it is that she lives in a time when roles like this are actually available. Indian cinema is coming of age, which is a cliché, yes, but a lie, no.

And then, the scene. I give nothing away by describing the last scene of Amu, so I will. It is a long shot of railway tracks in Delhi, with people walking here and there in the distance, among them Konkona’s character. Nothing happens at all in the scene, which lasts, by my recollection, for three or four minutes. Slowly, a train comes into the frame, winds its way across it, and goes off, as the inactivity on the frame continues.

So what’s the big deal about it? Well, in any other film, such a long scene, with nothing at all happening in it, would have made the crowds madly impatient. People would have hooted and jeered, talked among themselves, made weak jokes and laughed uproariously. Yet, at the end of Amu, for that entire stretch of time, there was utter silence in the crowd – such was the impact of that wonderful film. Instead of letting the audience get up and leave and forget about the film when it was over, Bose made them sit there, and think about it, and she allowed the emotions and thoughts that the film evoked to seep in. It was a courageous scene to include in a film, and it worked. Watch this lady.

And if you haven’t already, watch Amu.
amit varma, 3:26 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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