If the role of cinema in the lives of small town folks forms the basis for ‘Kumar Talkies,’ the other two shorts focus on women who dare to break social norms.

There is something magical about documentaries. They not only showcase a world that many of us are totally unaware of, but also allow us to study different societies and their uniqueness.

These films provide glimpses into the psyche of simple folk. And many a time, they are stories of triumph in troubled times.

One documentary which has cinema as its theme will be aired on NDTV’s Documentary 24/7.

‘Kumar Talkies,’ made by Pankaj Rishi Kumar, an FTII graduate who has assisted director Shekar Kapur in ‘Bandit Queen,’ is set in the small town of Kalpi in Uttar Pradesh.

The focus is a run-down cinema hall, the only one in that town where films don’t run longer than a few days.

A funny take on how cinema plays a significant role in the lives of this simple folk, Pankaj’s film has people who walk into the hall mid-way through the film. ‘Oh! I saw the first part two days ago. I had to leave early, so I am catching up with the rest of it now!” says one man with a smile. Of course, the projectionist is king here and which song to show and which scene to delete, depends on his mood and whim that day!

There is a personal angle to the film. The filmmaker’s father had converted a factory into Kumar Talkies in the 1960s.

So for Pankaj, it is an opportunity to reconstruct the story behind the birth of Kumar Talkies and re-visit his family history.

With interviews from people associated with his father and inputs from his mother, Pankaj brings alive the magic of the days gone by.

The interviews with the town’s residents are humorous, yet poignant.

The magic of cinema captivates them like no other, and fantasy continues to play a central role in these people’s harsh lives.

A bold step

Israeli film maker Ibtisam Mara’ana’s ‘Lady Kul-el Arab’ is a touching tale of a young woman who dares to dream in a war-torn country where social norms are even more powerful than the law. Angelina, the first Druze woman to attempt significant steps in the world of Israeli fashion, is caught between tradition and her aspirations. She’s brave enough to dream of doing something her heart yearns for, yet is not too sure of the repercussions.

The film begins with a beauty pageant, but soon one is drawn into Angelina’s life. It turns into a story of a family that is caught between cultures. Will Angelina get what she wants? Watch this moving film and the answers will reveal themselves.

Courageous move

Yet another film on woman power is ‘Afghan Girls Can Kick’ by Bahareh Hosseini. The status of women under the Taliban rule in Afghanistan is well known. For five long years, women went through life veiled, preferably indoors, were excluded from education and, of course, sports.

Now, with the Taliban no longer in power, women are slowly emerging from this exile and proving to the world that they too have the talent, intelligence and more important, the chance to do what they couldn’t do before. For example, play soccer.

The women of the National soccer team play with covered arms and legs (and when the camera rolls, with headscarves.) Because of security, no other international team has ever come to play them in Afghanistan and NATO’s women soldiers are no match.

And then, something incredible happens. The team gets invited to participate in a tournament at the Jinnah Stadium in Islamabad. For these players, it’s the first time they will play a full-fledged game on a real soccer field!

The film follows the players during practice and the games, with each team member’s story told in a telling manner.

A repressed childhood maybe, but the girls’ spirits are not fettered, and though they are still living in danger and insecurity every day, they have the ambition and the courage to look ahead.

Telecast details: ‘Kumar Talkies’ will be telecast on Documentary 24x7 on July 18, 3 p.m. and July 19, 1 p.m. ‘Lady Kul-el Arab’ will be shown on July 25, 3 p.m. and ‘Afghan Girls Can Kick’ on July 26, 1 p.m.