The Wrestlers
original title: Uttara
dir-scr Buddhadev Dasgupta
with Tapas Pal, Shankar Chakraborty, Jaya Seal, RI Asad, Saurav Das, Tapas Adhikari, Gautam Warshi, Masood Akhtar, Subrata Dutta
release London Film Fest Nov.00
99/India 1h39 2 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Colour and culture. A group of masked dancers parades across the screen now and then. Fascinating, but what does it mean...?
This heavily symbolic story weaves a romantic triangle together with Indian folk tales. At the centre are Nemai and Balaram (Pal and Chakraborty), railway signalmen and inseparable friends who spend much of their spare time in wrestling matches on the hilltop near their home. Then Nemai brings home a wife, Uttara (Seal), who comes between the friends even as outside forces--political and religious--start to bear down on the local village.

There's a visual feast here, with all kinds of elements combining to keep us on our toes. We have not only the central duo, who are blind to everything around them, but also a band of dwarves, a troupe of masked dancers, a priest (Asad) with an adopted orphan boy (Das), and a group of marauding Hindu fanatics. These are all meaningful elements of life in Bengal, and as such are hard to decipher for those of us in the West. But they do give us a glimpse into the society and the issues these people face on a daily basis. And there are some powerfully involving images and situations throughout the film that speak more universally. The central plot is quite involving--dramatic, funny and ultimately tragic. It's not an easy film to watch, but worth it for the chance to look into a distant culture.

[themes, language] 14.Nov.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall