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Made in India

`Kali Salwar'

The new millennium presents signs of change in the many faces of new Indian cinema. Reflecting on the changing scenario, the Seventh International Film Festival of Kerala, to begin here on March 29, presents a package of four recent films made in the country.

Journalist-turned-filmmaker K. N. T. Sastri's Telugu film, `Tiladaanam' explores the subtle interface between tradition and modernity. Fate makes Subbaiah Sastry, a Vedic Pundit in his heydays, live as a corpse carrier, forcing him to accept thiladaanam, considered as one of the meanest rites. He lives in the city of Hyderabad, unmindful and unwary of the changes around. His son, Raghuram, has espoused terrorism and is wanted by the police Raghuram's wife, Padma, gives birth to a boy child, who, according to Subbaiah Sastry, has been born at an evil moment, which, he believes, might bring death to the child's father, even as he tries to perform a ritual to ward off the evil effects. Padma takes all these in her stride. But, driven to the wall, she acts in a manner unacceptable to society

Says the director, "The film has a number of layers. At one level, it is a story of a Brahmin household where the younger generation rebels against tradition. But at a deeper level, it reveals how money affects people."

Fareeda's Hindi film `Kali Salwaar', based on a literary work by Saadat Hasan Manto, tells the tale of Sultana, a small-town prostitute. Along with her pimp, Khudabaksh, she migrates to the metropolis. Despite her best efforts, she cannot survive in the big city. Her loneliness and despair are reflected in her desire for the black salwar (garment) that she needs to complete her Moharram attire.

The Indian presence at the Oscars, `Lagaan', has also been included in IFFK package. Asuthosh Gowarikar's Aamir Khan-starrer is set in the late 19th century in a fictitious village in Central India, where the British have set up a cantonment. The villagers are waiting for rain and the arrogant Captain Russel (Paul Blackthorne) doubles the tax for the farmers. The reason: the king (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) does not heed the Captain's order to eat meat. The harried farmers, including the hero, Bhuvan (Aamir Khan), approach Russel for mercy and go back with an ultimatum.

Since Bhuvan insulted their game of cricket, the villagers are challenged to a match. If they win, they get their tax waived for three years, if they lose they pay triple. The stage is set for a snappy, funny littleguys-versus-the-Empire kind of film.

Actress Revathi's directorial debut, `Mitr, My Friend', completes the package. It explores the emotions of an Indian family that has been living in the U.S. for 18 years. Lakshmi, a small-town girl, gets married to Prithvi, born and raised in the U.S. Lakshmi's life centres on her husband and daughter Divya. As Divya gets older, her dependence on her mother becomes less and the cultural differences between the two pose huge barriers. While Divya cannot understand why her mother remains steeped in `foolish Indian traditions', Lakshmi cannot understand her daughter's `peculiar' outlook towards life. Prithvi too fails to see Lakshmi's growing loneliness and thirst for her roots.

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