No, this is not an English movie. It is an Indian movie made in
Hindi and Ladakhi language with English sub-titles. Debutant
director Shivajee Chandrabhushan (35) is also the producer of
Frozen (February 2007).
Since 2007 it has been circulating in film festivals and art
houses and is a subject of students of cinema. After winning
numerous awards, it has now been released in Mumbai on May 8. It
will soon release in other cities too.
Not much is known about Ladhaki cinema. The people speaking
Ladhakhi run in a couple of lakhs. And they are bowled over by
Bollywood. Still, Tsewang Dorje is the first Ladakhi actor. On
regional level, projects are not adequately funded so it is
difficult to make movies here. But foreigners have made some
interesting movies like Elsewhere
(2001) and Samsara (2000).
Ladakh is a region in Jammu and Kashmir State. At one time,
people used to mention it together as JKL (Jammu, Kashmir,
Ladakh). But with divisions of the region, J&K has lost its
crown status. It has split in Pakistan-occupied Azad
Kashmir/Baltistan. China claims Aksai Chin and Shaksgam Valley.
There is the Indian Army's take over of Siachen Glacier. The Army
took it over 25 years ago and Frozen
depicts a part of it. J&K, once called the Himalayan crown of
India now stands shapeless.
Ladakhis share cultural ties with Tibet. Ladakh itself is called
"Little Tibet". Most of them are Buddhists (in Leh) and others
are Shia Muslims (in Kargil). Leh and Kargil are Ladakh's two
districts. There is a demand to make Ladakh a union territory.
With harsh weather and mountainous region, it is not easy to
shoot here. Ladakhis therefore depend on tourism mainly.
Ladakhi language is generally called Western Archaic Tibetan. It
is not even considered a distinct language. And its speakers run
in a couple of lakhs only. This makes it difficult (if not
impossible) to promote it on a wider scale. And movies are a
means to promote.
Amidst all these difficulties (funds, weather, locale, political
scenario, etc) it is a wonder that such a visually delightful
movie has been made in a long while. It is of 109 minutes
duration. In today's times when Mughal E
Azam has been turned into colour,
Frozen has been shot in black and
Shivajee is a photographer by profession and he knows best. This
is the first Hindi movie after 40 years to be shot and released
in B&W. In this movie B&W complements the stark reality
of the mountains and also the family's situation.
The story is pretty straight forward. Karma (Tshering Phintso
Danny Denzongpa) is an ageing widower, who is finding it
difficult to make ends meet. He has a daughter Lasya (Gauri) and
a son Chomo (Angchuk). His young wife (Shilpa Shukla of
Chak De India fame) is no more and that
adds to his woes. He sells apricot jams but finds no buyers as
machine-made products inundate market.
Karma has to pay back the debt too and the moneylender Sharma
(Yashpal Sharma) is breathing down his neck. As they say, all
troubles come at once. The army regiment suddenly requisitions
his ancestral lands for an outpost. So, he cannot sell the land
to pay off the debt. Lecherous Sharma desires money and his
daughter Lasya too.
Karma decides to marry off Lasya for her stable future. Laysa
maybe 18 but she is childish, bubbly and rebellious in behaviour.
Is there a way out for Karma? That forms the later part of the
movie that is actually a journey of a lifetime. The movie is seen
from the eyes of Lasya.
Danny (61) with his towering personality has infused life in the
role of a burdened old man. He is the backbone of the movie. This
is his 150th movie. The role was earlier given up by
Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri. Their loss was Danny's gain. And he
fits the bill to the T. With his chinky looks and Sikkimese
background, he is the true son of the mountains. Danny has
definitely come a long way from his early villainous roles.
The cast is ably supported by Shakeel Khan, Raj Zutshi and Aamir
Bashir. Watch out for Yashpal Sharma, who has turned in a good
The music is tailor-made for the movie. Emotionally the viewer
may not connect with the movie. It is as bland and barren as the
mountains. But the cinematography is out of the world. The film
was shot in 28 days flat at a height of 12,000 feet above sea
level with -25 degree temperature.
Frozen has already won 18 awards and
critical acclaim all over the world, including the British
Independent Film Awards, European Film Awards, Spirit Awards,
Gotham Awards, Dubai International Film Festival, Los Angeles
LGBT People of Color Film Festival, Artivist Film Festival and
Stockholm Film Festival. It has won the Special Jury Prize at
Delhi's Osian's-CineFan and has toured 30 film festivals
including Toronto Film Festival.
Don't look for any popular naach-gaana stuff here.
Suffice it to say, it is a slice of life. Experience it. You will
end up enjoying the difference.
With Frozen, the first segment of my
(reviews of) Regional Film Festival too comes to a productive
end. I have done it for the first time and it was kinda enormous.
I learnt a lot as I believe in 'no pain, no gain". Must say, I
enjoyed the novel experience what with a varied Marathi, Tamil,
Punjabi, Bhojpuri, Kashmiri, Bengali and Ladakhi fare.
Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. That will be the icing on
the cake. I will do a second segment of regional movie reviews
too but not in the immediate future. Bolly beckons for now. But
do stay tuned.
You never know when you will turn lucky with my surprises. This
one was courtesy the on-going strike. Despite the strike a new
movie has released this week. The dry spell is over. And
hopefully we are done with cold-storage stuff. It calls for a
celebration. Happy days are here again. Ciao.