Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Out of Thin Air

Jan 9, 2011, Sunday, 12:45 PM
Out of Thin Air, 50 mins
By Shabani Hassanwalia and Samreen Farooqui

‘Las Del, Las Del’, you can hear a voice as if a push cart vendor were shouting his wares.
And on the screen are pictures of a place that seem very familiar.

Two men drag a horse, a boy and a girl, all life size toys, up a hill. The next frame shows them standing on the edge of the hill and pushing the toys down. They fall in slow motion,
Horse, girl and boy, into blue green waters of a river in the valley below.
This looks familiar too.

There are Buddhist prayer flags and prayer wheels with rugged mountains in the background.

This is becoming more and more familiar.

Oh! Ladakh!
That’s why!

Twice, not once but twice I visited Ladakh. And I did not know there was a film industry there!
The very thought of a film industry in Ladakh makes you smile.

Stories of small town innocent folks following the glitter of the cities are always funny, cute and endearing.

Who would ever imagine that Ladakh had a film industry?
And who would imagine that a Buddhist Lama was acting and dancing in one of these films?

Yes. The people who make these films are taxi drivers, restaurant workers, shop keepers and lamas. The ordinary people. And they do everything. There are no defined roles.
One particular fellow was director, choreographer, dancer and actor. Almost all of them were many things at once. How all of us in the auditorium laughed!

10 music videos and 6 digital films release in Leh every year.
The frame shows people crowding outside a door. It opens, it is dark inside and several feet rush to get inside, pushing each other.

Their latest release is a Las-Del, meaning Karmic Connection. This is their most expensive film. It cost 15 lakhs.
On an average, a Ladakhi film costs 5 lakhs.

Zulfikar Ali, a taxi driver and employee of public works department, known as Zulzul, also as Munna (after Munnabhai MBBS) is a villain.
‘what can I do, I have a face like that’ he says.
If I play hero, no one likes it. If I play a murderous fellow carrying a Kalashnikov, then people like me.

In Sholay style, Zulfikar says, “Door jab Bachha rota hai to ma kehti hai ‘beta soja warna Zulzul ayega” and laughs.

“There are seasons – one love story became a hit. Then everyone started making love stories. And then a tragic film became a hit. All started making tragic films. We made an action film. But it was a flop”, says another insider of the industry.
“Don’t know why, but these Ladakhis like tragedy a lot. They watch these films and cry and cry…”

Norzum is an actress, dancer and choreographer. She is shown dancing for the Hindi title song from the film ‘Khushi’. It is more of folk dance and does not really have anything of Bollywood in it.
“Whom do you like more? Madhuri Dixit or Norzum?” when you ask a local, “Norzum”, comes the reply.

The heroine, giggling most of the time, says she puts a lot of passion into her work. Sometimes she really starts crying as she is acting. Otherwise, she puts glycerine and cries and cries.
“Aasoon ata hai to rote hain, warna glycerine lagake rote hai”.

“Garhwali films and films made in Himachal are inspired by Ladakhi films. Even their songs are copied from us” says this guy. “These Garhwali films are imperfect – “maang tika hata hua hota hai to hero scene mein gana gate hue aake theek karta hai (if there are faux pas, the actors make corrections as part of the scene ). We don’t do such things. We are perfect.”

“We want to preserve Ladakhi culture. This is fast changing.”
Very true.
In just 1 year, between 2 consecutive visits, how much had changed.

The director of a film is a Buddhist Lama and he wants to cast Hrithik Roshan in one of his films.
He wants his grandfather’s permission for becoming full time director, because it was his grandfather who wanted him to be a lama.
“Unse poochoonga. Who agnya de to karoonga”, says he with a smile.

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