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The thread that binds (Film only)
Member Name: thereddragon
Date: 07/06/09, updated on 07/06/09 (97 review reads)
Advantages: Superb acting, writing, direction and cinematography, lush scenery
Disadvantages: None, except maybe for those who don't like subtitled films
Gul Kirat Panag as Zeenat
Ayesha Takia as Meera
Shreyas Talpade as Behroopiya
Rushad Rana as Amir
Anirudh Jaykar as Shankar Singh
This 2006 movie was on very late-night television a while back and, having a liking for Indian films and having read that this was a particularly good one, I set it to record to watch at a more convenient time. And when I finally got to sit down and watch it, I was completely blown away by the beauty of this wonderful film. I knew it was meant to be good, but it way surpassed my expectations. Suffice to say that the recording is now a permanent member of my film collection!
The film's title roughly translates to 'the thread' or 'the link', and the plot revolves around the unusual and unexpected links that can suddenly be forged between very different people across differing cultures and geography.
From the very first scene, I was really drawn in. Zeenat and her boyfriend Aamir, living in green, lush mountainous Himachal Pradesh, are very much in love, and in a deeply touching dialogue as they work together on house repairs, he proposes to her. They quickly marry, but Aamir then has to go away to Saudi to work. We cut to another young couple, Meera and her husband Shankar Singh in arid desert Rajasthan, also very much in love, as they listen to music, dance and laugh. We learn that Meera's Shankar also must depart for the same destination for the same purpose, and both couples are heartbroken at their separations, but look forward to reuniting when the husbands have been able to earn enough to help their respective families make better lives for themselves.
However, all of their lives are shattered when news comes that Shankar has been killed, and that Aamir has been accused of murdering him. It transpires that they had been roommates in the lodgings for their new jobs, and Shankar had fallen from the balcony of their room. Despite its having been an accident and Aamir's protestations of innocence, he is sentenced to death. Zeenat is informed by a lawyer that the only way she can save her husband under Saudi law is to find Shankar's widow and beg her to sign a document asking for Aamir to be pardoned. She immediately sets off, alone and with what little money she has and a few possessions, to find Meera, being given a lift to the city by a lorry driver friend. All she has to go on is a photo of Shankar, but she is determined that she will find Meera by any means possible.
She stops to eat at a small café and a goofy young man claiming 'I am an astrologer!' seats himself at her table. The goofy man, Behroopiya, offers to tell her fortune. He tells her that she is on a long journey to find a woman - but it transpires that he came to know this by having overheard her conversation with the lorry driver when he dropped her off at the café. Zeenat is not impressed! But, she takes a liking to him, especially after he removes his false moustache and admits that he is an actor and does the fake astrologer routine to try to earn money. He offers to come with her and help find Meera - we discover that apart from being a con man he is actually very sweet and likeable. He notices something in the background of Zeenat's photo that gives a clue as to where Shankar was from, and this gives them a hopeful direction to head in. So they set off, Behroopiya's acting skills coming in useful in many situations they encounter. But, if they even find Meera, how will she react to being faced with the wife of the man accused of killing her own beloved husband?
I was so thoroughly impressed with this real gem of a film. The cinematography is breathtaking, capturing intensely beautiful scenery ranging from the green lush hills of the north to the harsh and bleak desert of the south, and the colourful quiet small towns and bustling big cities we get glimpses of in between. You feel almost as if you're there, able to sense the hot dryness of the arid desert towns in the south, the fragrances of the exotic foliage in the north and the scents of the street markets along the way. It really makes the film 'come alive'.
The direction is of a very high standard, producing a highly atmospheric film, and the acting is first rate, very natural and convincing. I found that the strong and determined Zeenat, the sweet and gentle Meera and the zany lovable Behroopiya were especially compelling and likeable characters who you really feel drawn to and who come across as very real - you find yourself empathising with them and genuinely caring what happens to them.
The film switches viewpoint back and forth between Zeenat and Meera, so we see what is going on in both their lives as the story progresses. There are many scenes that are highly moving, from the ones depicting how in love the two couples are, to Meera's heartbreaking reaction at the return of her dead husband's suitcase of belongings, to the ending of the film, which I found unexpected and left me in floods of tears (I'm feeling misty even writing about it now!).
Although a deep film on a very serious subject, there are enough moments of humour (especially on the part of Behroopiya) and lightheartedness to make it much less 'dry' than it sounds. The main characters are all well-rounded, with a humorous side as well as a serious side. It's not a typical Bollywood film where there are numerous big cheerful song and dance routines throughout which tend to break the mood of a serious film, instead there is just one random happy song and dance scene about halfway through the film between the three main characters - this looks sort of 'thrown in' but is actually very uplifting and enjoyable, providing a bit of a light 'interval'.
I really can't recommend this film highly enough and found it one of the best and most memorable I've seen in ages. It's one that sticks in the mind after seeing it, and is one that I will want to watch more than once.
In Hindi with English subtitles, but you will be so drawn into this wonderful movie that hopefully you won't notice the subtitles after a short time.
Also on ciao.co.uk as thereddragon and ciao.com as EsmeraldaDragon.
Summary: A must-see highly moving and compelling Indian drama