ByTowne ByTowne Cinema
325 Rideau St. Ottawa K1N 5Y4
Info Line: (613) 789-FILM
Hold on to your happiness.
Patang (The Kite), Prashant Bhargava’s first feature, has a lovely, unforced quality. That’s because Mr. Bhargava lets his story, set during the annual kite festival in Ahmedabad, India, tell itself, unfolding slowly as he follows filmmaking’s most basic and most sinned-against dictum: Show, don’t tell.
Jayesh (Mukund Shukla), a Delhi businessman, returns home with his daughter, Priya (Sugandha Garg), to Ahmedabad, in Gujarat, for the kite festival. They stay at the family mansion, a picturesquely crumbling pile presided over by Jayesh’s sister-in-law (the excellent Seema Biswas). It’s deep in the old city, a place of narrow alleys, wandering livestock and tiered rooftops, where residents gather to fly kites and picnic on the festival day.
Mr. Bhargava’s technique owes much to documentaries, not least in the sense that the camera is capturing unguarded moments. Scenes feel loose and unstaged: when Priya kisses a smitten local boy (Aakash Maherya), his slightly stunned, melancholy look afterward is unexpected and moving.
Mr. Bhargava draws layered, naturalistic performances from his cast of professionals and nonactors. The cocky street kids, innocent and knowing, are especially good. So is their relationship with Jayesh’s nephew, Chakku (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). He hangs out with them like a disreputable older brother – half Fagin, half pied piper – but reveals a well of unflashy tenderness.
During the day and night of the festival, the tensions in Jayesh’s family become clear, and certain familiar themes appear: about wealth in the new India, family responsibility, old ways versus modern ones. They seem fresh here. So does Patang.
– Rachel Saltz, The New York Times
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