Sunday, February 15, 2015

Notes on Dhanak (Rainbow), by Nagesh Kukunoor, India: 2014-Berlinale 2015- X.-Generation Kplus

Dhanak, one of the very few Indian films shown at this year´s Berlin Film Festival is a wonderful mixture of Road Movie and Fairy Tale. It is not only a film for and about children but has also the lightness but incredible inspired kind of a child´s play.
Tow orphans are on the move to meet in a far distant city in Rajastan Sha Rukh Khan. Pari, the girl is ten, her little brother Chotu is blind. On a poster, Pari saw that Sha Rukh Khan promised to recover eyesight for blind children.
The journey goes through the real desert landscape and they encounter a lot of curious, funny, sad and often very dangerous people like kidnapper. Kukunoor´s approach to make a film for children is one thing. On another level this film offers a correspondence between reality and play, the harsh reality of social and geographic environment and fairy tale between the children´s struggle for surviving and their fairy tale -like inspiration. If there is any Indian cinematic pendant to Grimm´s famous fairy tale Hansel and Grete, we have got it with this film, in Cinema Scope and in colours which are always stronger than in reality. Sha Rukh Khan as a Bollywood myth is only a hint. The film celebrate itself literally as a cinematic rainbow. And the film offers two option to enjoy it: the first is to enjoy it like you enjoy the first film you saw on the big screen in your life. The second option is to reflect about this everlasting relationship between cinema and reality.
One of the most unforgettable and moving character, the children encounter is a former truck driver who has lost his wife and his children during a car accident. After that he became crazy and now he walks with a steering wheel and a horn like “driving a truck”. That reminds me at the same time in the crazy boy who imitates a tram in Akira Kurosawa´s heartbreaking sad Dodeskaden and in the incredible beauty and poetry of a film by Hiroshi Shimizu.
This dynamic between sadness and comedy, between drama and fun is extremely well balanced and reflected very well in this “elder sister-Little brother” -constellation. The film is moving on a very thin line between playfulness and earnestness of two very poor children. Deeply rooted in the geographic and social reality of this part of the world with several hints to the problems the children are confronted with. Dhanak remains at the same time cinema embedded in the poetry of a fairy tale-like storytelling.

From time to time a film like Dhanak is really an essential healing after seeing so much film and after knowing so much about film. For children, Dhanak might be another introduction into the wonder of cinema, for us aging ones it should be welcomed as a rediscovery of where our love to cinema really comes from.
Rüdiger Tomczak