Indian Panorama at the International Film Festival of India at
Goa (November, 2013) mounted selections of the best feature and non-feature films of the year, alongwith a focus on films from North-East India, musical journeys of Indian Cinema and outstanding students films from major film institutes in India.
Shepherds of Paradise
Raja Shabir Khan’s ‘Shepherds of Paradise’ (Gojri/Urdu, 2012, colour, 50 mins, digital) tracks the nomadic life of the Shepherds of Kashmir also known as ‘bakurwals’. The Shepherds live with the goats and also die for them. Goats are waling and grazing on hilly terrain. Some Shepherds are on horseback, as floating clouds cast shadows on the hills, mountain streams and valley. The landscape is real paradise, but houses on the mountains are rebuilt every year, as snow breaks up the wooden huts. Salt is grounded for the horses, and the horses drink from streams and eat grass. Amidst the bleating sounds, there is a close up of the goats at night, kept secure by bamboo fencing. At dawn the ships and goats are herded, and taken care of, as if they were children of the Shepherds. 75-year old Gafoor, a Shepherd travels on foot with his family and herd from the plains of Jammu to the mountains of Kashmir in summer, and returns to the Jammu region in winter. Gafoor’s son has no interest in herding. It is 300 km to Kashmir, over the Pir Panjal ranges. Title inserts specify day 1, and onwards. The horses carry goods accompanied by Gafoor, his wife, son and two daughters. Rations consist of 20 kg of rice and 10 kilo of flour. The goats trek through ravines and gorges. Occasionally militants demand food, and the Shepherds are questioned by security forces.
At night, Sultan, Gafoor’s 18-year-old son keeps guard against thieves. A local family objects to intrusions. Some villagers look at the camera, and think it is a gun. Security check points dot the route. Dry corn is grounded at the local mill. Tents fixed with ropes are swayed by mountain gales. Small fires are extinguished by rain and hail storms. Large mountain passes come and go. Crossing the Pir Panjal is a long and difficult journey, with constant threats from rain and hunger. It is a battle for life, and god is remembered in difficult times. The hills and tracks are covered by snow, and one horse topples in a blizzard. 500 goats perish every season, and Gafoor has lost five goats. Young goats crouch on snow roads. Irfan Bilal’s string music accompanies the steps of the horses and goats. Rana Shabir Khan’s mobile camera captures the trajectory of the mountain journey, the human struggle, the falling hails, and the beautiful landscape which becomes a protagonist. The montage of images are true to nature and man’s grim determination.
In the rural surroundings, Jabya (Kishor Kadam) walks with a caterpalt aiming at birds and animals, in Nagraj Manjule’s ‘Fandry–Pig’ (Marathi, 2013, colour, 103 mins, digital). The woods and fields become a decor, as Jabya misses school for cultivation. His mother insists that new clothes are to be bought from wages, of day labour. Jabya is in love with his classmate, Shalu (Chaya Kadam) of a higher caste. Of Kaikadi caste, Jabya stares at Shalu whenever she is passing by. Vignettes of village life, intermingle with Jabya’s classroom. A teacher teaches the thoughts of a saint, who had propounded that a person’s character is reflected in his thoughts. Sometimes Jabya’s mother (Sakshi Vyarhare) comes to the school varandah, and watches Jabya in the class. Incense water is springled on a girl who had touched pigs. Jabya’s father removes a pig from a dirty water tank, and the pig is cut for food. A man with a white cap agrees to a marriage proposal, with Surekha, a village girl, in exchange for Rs 50,000 dowry and 10 gms of gold ring. Jabya has a nightmare of drowning in a well.
Jabya’s hunt for black sparrows continues with his yearnings for Shalu. At the small town Jabya watches mannequins in garments shops. He is selling icicles, and wants to buy a pair of jeans. A boy, from Shalu’s family, threatens Jabya for chasing Shalu. Upper caste boys taunt Kacharya, (Pravin Trade), Jabya’s father, when he totters drunk. A truck while reversing knocks down Jabya’s cycle, with a box full of icicles. One day Jabya’s father discovers a love letter from Jabya to Shalu. Jabya’s mother irons clothes with a brass vessel, filled with hot water. Poor and lower caste, Jabya follows Shalu and her friends at the village fair. Jabya’s father buys a shirt for his son. The father requests a tambourine from his employer. A chariot of the gods is pulled at a village religious procession. Drums and tambourine are beaten, and villagers dance Hindi film style. Events become inauspicious as the holy carriage falls and breaks.
A pig runs into the procession. Jabya pelts a black sparrow dead, on a tree. Ashes are sprinkled for Shalu. A thatched hut is painted for a wedding. Jabya’s family chases a pig with sticks and noose. Villagers stand when the national anthem is played at Jabya’s school. Photos of Ambedkar, who fought against poverty, adorn the school walls. Jabya throws stones at upper caste village men who tease him. Brisk movements are artistically captured by Vikram Amladi’s camera of structured tempo. Manjule’s film of village stories has overlapping narratives.
Vol. 46, No. 38, Ma r30 - Apr 5, 2014