FROZEN Warm Ladakhi Fare

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic

It is a warm ladakhi fare.

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 white.
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 performance.
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.

Submitted: May 17, 2009

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