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India, we love thee

 | November 5, 2013

India is my life, my very breath. That is where I go to refresh myself, says Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani

FEATURE

One of the surprises for me at the recent Abu Dhabi Film Festival was the presence of a couple of foreigners who appeared to be in love with India.

Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani – who is as beautiful as she is bold – told me during an invigorating chat that India was like her mother. “When I am far away from your country, I feel that I am far away from my own mother”, she said in all earnestness.

Farahani is all set to visit Goa in the next few days where she will take part in a conference on human rights – and how apt that will be for someone like her who has always fought for them. “It is a very, very important meeting, where a lot of important people from all over the world will come”, she sounded enthusiastic.

But she seemed to be even more excited about her long stay in India. “After the conference, I will be at the International Film Festival of India in Panaji from Nov 20. Between the conference and the Festival, I am going to be spending time in Karnataka, in one of those tree houses in a place called Paradise Island”, her eyes glowed as she described the place to me.

“India is my life, my very breath. That is where I go to refresh myself”, Farahani is in love with the land. She felt that India was the only country where she could find peace. For, “it is the only democracy in the world which gives you perfect freedom and a perfect sense of tranquillity”.

It was the lure of liberty which forced her to escape the restrictiveness of her native Iran five years ago. She settled in Paris, but kept coming back to India, which probably afforded her even greater independence.

A rebel all her life, Farahani tonsured her head when she was a teenager as a protest against the head scarf. Later, in Paris, she posed in the nude for a French photographer, inviting still greater wrath from her country’s clergy.

Even on screen, she had been a free spirit.  In Patience Stone, she has long conversations with her comatose husband. A point comes when her words get so sexually explicit that it shakes the man out of his vegetative state.

This time, at Abu Dhabi, she plays a school teacher in My Sweet Pepper Land, living alone in a desolate Kurdish village and fighting a brutish chieftain. And when she falls in love with the local cop, there is fire and fury. Interestingly, the movie has daringly intimate scenes.

There was another India lover at Abu Dhabi whom I met: Bosnian director Danis Tanovic. Here was a helmer from a little land in Europe making an Indian movie in Punjab! He has just finished shooting White Lies (working title), starring Emraan Hashmi, Geetanjali Thapa and Supriya Pathak, and produced by Anurag Kashyap. The film, largely shot in Punjab’s Patiala, centres on a poor Pakistani and his struggle against a corrupt system.

Many years ago, when I first met Tanovic at the Cannes Film Festival, I could not have imagined that this guy would someday make an Indian movie. His film at the 2001 Cannes was No Man’s Land, and it won the Best Screenplay Award there. Some months later in early 2002, the movie won the Best Foreign Language Oscar.  No Man’s Land was a gripping story of three soldiers caught in no man’s land between the borders of their respective countries.

At the Abu Dhabi Festival with his latest work, An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker – which is Bosnia’s official submission for the 2014 foreign language Oscar — Tanovic told me in the course of an interview that his movie stood no chance of making it to the nomination basket of five.

(Life of an Iron Picker narrates the harrowing tale of a Roma family when the woman who has had a miscarriage cannot undergo a surgical procedure because her husband is unable to pay the hospital bill.)

Tanovic contended that “there are far better ones than mine competing…But I wish India’s The Lunchbox had been submitted. From Telluride to Toronto, it has been getting rave reviews. I would have withdrawn my work to accommodate this Indian picture. If it could have been nominated as Bosnia’s entry, I would have done it. It is such good cinema with fine performances…”.  Tanovic’s love for India is apparent.

Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at [email protected]


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