The Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival kicks off in London this week. It’s a film festival I attend annually and enjoy because the breadth of films and stories shown during it are so creative. Each one is curated to give an insight into lesser-known, often marginalised lives, which is what I value the most; the chance to see, hear and experience worlds so different to my own. This year I’m sharing my thoughts on some of the films that are screening, starting with one that was crowd-funded and made by a first time Director, Nishil Sheth - Bhasmasur.
Film review: Bhasmasur
The title of this film is taken from one of its characters, a donkey; but Bhasmasur is not the focus, he’s simply one thread in this captivating story about family ties, and making the hardest decision of your life.
The fabric of the heart-breaking tale is woven from the sacrifices and pain experienced by a community of poverty stricken farmers who reside in a village in Rajasthan. We’re given an insight into their lives, handed a lens into the plight of father and son: Dhaanu and Tipu, who are struggling to survive during a drought.
While some farmers have taken their own life to escape their debts, Dhaanu decides to escape his financial crisis by selling the family donkey Bhasmasur. A loyal animal, Bhasmasur provides companionship and joy to Tipu and his younger sister but unaware of his father’s intentions Tipu agrees to accompany him on an epic journey from the village to the city, where his father plans to seal the deal; and so begins a journey that will change both of their lives, forever.
Much of the film is set against the desolate landscape of the Rajasthani desert. The rocky terrain is one that’s arid and harsh, its muted colour provides the backdrop to the bond that forms between the father and son as they are tested under extreme conditions, surviving on little food, exhaustion and even running out of water.
As the journey extends, we learn more about Tipu’s father, a closely guarded character, who begins to open up to his son about his own life and childhood. The telling of local myths, discovering desert life and encountering the culture of a wandering tribal group, all fascinate young Tipu.
Poignant moments are when Tipu and his father discuss the death of his mother, an intimate moment juxtaposed against such a vast, empty space. Moving and honest it’s a turning point in their relationships and as the trip continues a special bond between father and son forms, which couldn’t have happened in the confinements of their home.
A reflective watch, Bhasmasur is a films that is so quiet at times it gives you the space to properly think about the characters and their situation, a rare trait as in most films there can be so much going on it’s impossible to pause and appreciate all the elements. Tipu, played by Mittal Chouhan is a pleasure to watch - still so young with a youthful naivety, he gives a truthful performance of a boy, who deserves to enjoy his childhood but has it cut short.
Though it’s easy to be drawn into this being a universal story of a father and son, bonding over a journey, it’s not possible to escape the reality of the poverty that overshadows them, which culminates in a tragic and unexpected climax.
The result is a film that is pleasurable to watch but ends in pain, confronting a reality that is still prevalent in rural India, in a sensitive and thoughtful way.
Bhamasur runs as part of the 9th edition of the Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival, that runs at 15 cinemas, across London, Birmingham and Manchester, from 21st June to 1st July, with 27 films, including features and short films, in competition. It is the largest South Asian film festival in Europe. Buy your tickets via this website, at respective cinema box offices: www.londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk