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Movie Review: Arya – Things Fall Apart, The Center Holds

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Lawyers and film critics share one thing in common – they sometimes must take up cases that require them to go against their principles in search of a greater truth. In the case of film critics, this means watching a film till the very end and then extracting out of the viewing that which advances film-making, human representations of the world at large, and the grand scheme of things.

Fledgling film-makers work under circumstances fraught with uncertainty – completing the film requires much fortitude and support from people willing to put in their efforts, often at next to no financial rewards. Independent film-makers have taken rich advantage of the democratization of film production through digital video. Few initial films are breakthrough efforts – one remembers Praying With Anger, Bad Taste and so on, yet there are others that stand out – Clerks, Pather Panchali, etc.

[ADBLOCKHERE]Which brings us to Arya, a film directed by Manan Singh Katohora. It is a bad film, and yet, like all films, one finds some interesting aspects. It validates almost single-handily François Truffaut’s auteur theory of film-making, which believes that a film or body of work reflects the personal vision and preoccupations of the director.

This is a post-9/11 film, expressing the emotions and reactions of first-generational Indian immigrants in New York after that day of empty sky. The protagonist has a number of disjointed experiences, influenced or arising from that day, and in the end, turning back to it as a nexus.

The actors are not really acting, or even playing their part. They are being who they are – somewhat alienated yuppies who must strive harder to fit into their first- and second-generation immigrant cultures – the New York desi scene, social aspirations, inside jokes, frottage are all expressed in a school play-like manner, and serve as distractions from the core plot. The main storyline deals with a television producer who is apparently leading a contented youthful existence until he begins to exhibit strange behavioral traits – the possibilities range from schizophrenia to a dream-like reality, and yet the real world is grotesque enough to not need any parapsychological explanations.

The lead actor, Samrat Chakrabarti, is a studied method actor, who often comes across as mentally following a dotted line laid across a convoluted stage. It is perhaps because of this mental routine that he fills out his part of a not-quite-there, alienated geniua. The other actors, too, would need more on-screen experience to give up their theatrical roots.

The scenes are mostly set-pieces, the over-long opening sequence, intended to convey the possibilities inherent in the storyline is not followed through in enough detail, and the ending is somewhat trite, if still effective. One must note the mostly seamless editing. The director is very obviously influenced by all the films he has seen but not quite internalised. Traces of films as diverse as PI, What The #$*! Do We Know?, Birth, the Shyamalan genre, and the nascent post-colonial Indian English film tradition are all placed in the post-9/11 storyline.

I woke up this morning

I could barely breathe


Just an empty impression

In the bed where you used to be

I want a kiss from your lips

I want an eye for an eye

I woke up this morning to the empty sky

(Springsteen, “The Rising”)

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