Film Education

13th Mumbai Film Festival 2011 – Since Otar Left

Talking Cinema (A Film Review Show – Episode 3)

My pick of films from the
13th Mumbai Film Festival 2011

“Since Otar Left” (2003)


13th Mumbai Film Festival 2011 – Once Upon A Time In Anatolia

Talking Cinema (A Film Review Show)

My pick of films from the
13th Mumbai Film Festival 2011

Part One
“Once Upon A Time In Anatolia”

TALKING CINEMA – The Film Review Show by Oorvazi Irani

( Kindly note in the video review above I refer to Fatema as Aayat’s mother, what I meant is mother like figure. Technically ofcourse she is Aayat’s bua(father’s  sister)


Written and Directed by Pankaj Kapoor
Produced by Sheetal Vinod Talwar and Sunil Lulla

A Film Analysis by Oorvazi Irani

A majority of the reviews rated the film in a negative light and I decided to see the film for the second time and ask myself, do I really like it and if yes why. The second viewing only added to my support for the film.

I would not say that the film was devoid of cliché and stereotype completely as it was a commercial film but I feel the poetic touch and concern for each department of filmmaking right through the production design, cinematography, sound design, music, acting – the director and his team made the film as a ‘labour of love’ and that is what lived on with me.

I am sharing with you brief highlights of a film analysis

The beginning title card and end titles:
The film is as much a film about war as it is about love. The theme of violence, destruction and war is the main backdrop amidst which the film unfolds but it is also part of the film in small details like the beginning title card text/typography which is in orange embers and there is in such a small detail hidden an important aspect of the theme of the film.

The film then has a closeup of the embers and the film begins.

The film ends with an item number of Shahid Kapoor showing off his dance moves to a catchy number of the song ‘Mallo Malli’ and soon the end credits roll. But what is interesting is that if you patiently sit for a while the end credits continue to roll but this time the song is gone and there is a beautiful mesmerizing music which reminds you of the artistic vision of the director and leaves you with a poetic note, it opens a space for you to ponder.

The first scene:
The first scene in the film is a letter from a displaced Kashmiri Pandit who is writing to his sister to look after his daughter Aayat, and so is the character of Aayat introduced (but not seen). She is herself a refugee and is directly linked to the effects of war. The film introduces us to the world which is deeply affected by war. The events of war small and big are reasons for the story to change shape and are major events in the life of the lovers.
The Ayodhya riots cause the Bombay blasts and one of Aayat’s close relative whose house she was staying in is killed (Fatema’s husband) and she has to leave for Bombay. This causes the first separation between the lovers. The second separation comes when Shahid is called for duty as an Airforce pilot for the Kargil war. The two lovers are also reunited and the film climax is set amidst an act of violence which is the riots of Ahmedabad. Thus not only the film begins and ends with war but it is the cause of the separation and the final reunion of the lovers.


Pammo played by Kanika Mangkotya

I would like to make special mention of Pammo, the sister of Harry. I found her performance very genuine. The relationship between brother and sister become an integral part of the film. I would like to site the scene where Harry comes to Switzerland to meet his sister to share the joy of the birth of her second child. Its then that Pammo asks him to go and meet Aayat and inspite of his hesitancy urges him to pursue his love with tears in her eyes. The performance was touching and felt sincere.

Guljari (the tongawalla) played by Manoj Pahwa

This character with his tonga and white horse was a good touch to bring alive the village of Mallukot. And we are told by Harry towards the end of the film that he was also responsible for saving his life from a violent mob. He is treated almost as family by the village folk. A small detail which has been looked into is that after many years when Aayat returns with Fatema to the village since time has progressed he now owns an auto and not a tonga, a small detail that connects with reality.

The Punjabi family

Harry’s grandfather was quite adorable as a character. He reminded me that many old people are so innocent and childlike and its their second childhood. He was so loveable in the characterization and the actor did do a fair amount of justice to it. The screaming Tauji was a bit of a stereotype but was fun at times however she could be made more real and less one-dimensional. I missed the charm in Harry’s friends and nobody was really memorable, infact the fat boy was a cliché and the performance did not have the power to break free of it. Rajjo played by Aditi Sharma was an interesting character, even though common and was well performed but I do feel there could have been some more intense scenes with her. The scene where she burns the letter, an important communication for Harry from his lover to an extent makes her a villain and the closeup of the face could have been more rich in its depth of emotion. Pammo’s NRI husband seemed like an amateur actor but at one level this fitted and created a character in its own way and that was interesting. Anupam Kher as Maharaj Krishna was good in moments and a loveable character specially at the Kashmir emporium when he meets Harry for the first time in Scotland.

The Kashmiri family and friends

An interesting fact that reveals itself is that they all stick together and are always there for each other. The film starts with Aayat been looked after by her father’s sister and staying in his house in Mallukot and then they move to Scotland where they shift to Macho’s house and work with him in his Kashmiri emporium.

Fatema played by Supriya Pathak is good as a motherly figure and her most memorable scene is in Scotland where she narrates to Harry that her husband was killed in the Bombay bomb blasts. The shot is in closeup and captures the sincerity of performance and the scene beautifully ends by her saying ‘I will get the tea’.

Aayat: Soonam Kapoor

Aayat has been introduced as a refugee and been displaced, this is interesting dynamics for an actor. She does convey some expressive moments of that pain, like the first time she is introduced visually on screen, with a scream after a nightmare and then she talks to her father on the phone and has tears in her yes, that is a sensitive and well performed scene. But I just hope Soonam Kapoor could have identified and maintained a few characteristics which would have made her more Aayat and less herself. Her sincerity was also seen in the small scene where the old film song ‘abhi abhi to aye ho’ is playing in the background and the last look when her lover is parting from her for the day is very expressive.

The two colors associated with Aayat as a pallet for her clothes seems to be white and red. Ofcourse the colors are so symbolic of peace, innocence, passion, love, blood.

If I had to choose a colour for each section it would be white for the village life with a mix of other colours as a variant, and red as a strong emotive colour for the Scotland section and the next season of love. Their love was innocent and now its passionate. Interestingly white returns at the climax of the film too. Eventhough Aayat does not wear a pure white saree, but it is predominantly white and Harry too has a strong colour pallet of white in his clothes and which features in the climax too. The colour red is also used in a scene where the lovers meet in a church and dip their hands in a red liquid. The colour red again is symbolic of passion and bloodshed and again here at a subconscious level the themes are intertwined together.

Aayat is beautiful at times and has an innocence and grace that is appealing. Some scenes are shot with very minimal makeup and that is a bold step for commercial cinema, it adds to the realism of the character and is well appreciated. However Aayat does not seem to have a specific character identity. One scene as a instance, how a simple village girl from India can now perform ballet so gracefully (which is something that is learned from childhood) is a little difficult to digest and is more in line with the commercial aspect of cinema than the realism of art cinema. But if you excuse that, the scene does have a grace that it infuses to the film. Soonam Kapoor does reveal in an interview when asked about her performance that she has been learning ballet from childhood and infact the crew did not really know about this. I assumed the director would have been concerned about such a detail, as the grace and posture would not be easy to fake. But we do have actresses like Meena Kumari who have played a tawaif in the famous film “Pakeeza” and was not a good dancer but the filmmaker pulled it off and replaced a dancer in the close-ups of the feet and created the illusion that Meena Kumari the tawaif is dancing. However we needed none of that here, besides the film was not about a ballet dancer.

Harinder Singh/Harry: Shahid Kapoor

Pankaj Kapoor, the director states that the film was conceived keeping in mind his son, Shahid Kapoor as the male lead. Shahid was cute and loveable in the Punjabi village section of the film. But the character of the Airfoce pilot seemed one dimensional and at the surface. There was a pride that now spoke in his body language but the entire section of the film which involves the airforce lacked to have a poetic and real feel. The Airforce pilots were presented as stylized heroes with low angle shots and music to match the heroism and the depth of character was missing.

Also maybe the performance is chopped up and the scenes deleted due to the Airforce having to approve it.


What is the imp of separation? It makes the love more intense when they meet and the plot of the film uses this basic devise to structure the film besides other things. With each separation and reunion the season of love intensifies. Sometimes the efforts of the lovers to meet were not strong enough and the separation seemed unrealistic at times but that apart the last separation leads to a loss of communication and things are becoming worse and it seems impossible for them to meet. As a classic plot structure events reach a point where the protagonists seem domed. Aayat is now thinking of taking the advise of her father’s sister (who is looking after her) and marrying Akram( this would be the end of their love story) but just when things have got worst and there is no hope, the plot takes a twist and we have the riots and the two lovers meet amidst this theatre of violence and reunite for the last time. The climax has the traditional heroic qualities of a commercial film where the actor rescues the heroine and then shows his valour and strength to rescue an innocent child from the clutches of death. The film’s resolution is like most of the popular commercial cinema, a happy and simple ending not complex and open ended. The two lovers are united and as a symbolic gesture adopt a orphan child that they rescue, however the film does proceed a few years ahead and we see Aayat now pregnant. The film ends with an item song where Harry and his small family live happily ever after.

Soundtrack and music
Sound Design by Dileep Subramaniam

The soundtrack for the film including the music was well designed and mixed. There was attention paid to small details which created the atmosphere in interesting ways and sometimes a creative use of the soundtrack.

I would like to mention the scene where Harry and Aayat meet for the first time for tea in Scotland after their separation in India. The scene unfolds itself where we hear the dialogues but the characters are not talking and we realize that this is the inner monologue of each character. There is music to suit the moment and create the mood and interestingly when Aayat puts the glass down on the table the music stops and then resumes after a few seconds. The filmmaker is playing with the realism of the film in a creative way and is teasing the audience.

Music Composer: Pritam
Lyrics: Irshad Kamil

The song Sajh Dhaj Ke Tashan Mein Rehna was appealing; the song had a catchy beat and was full of energy. It had the appeal of the Indian Punjabi wedding at the same time made a very relevant observation of the attitude of foreign returned Indians. The song was shot with various angles and movement and the editing helped create the high energy by its fast cuts.
Another song that I would like to mention is Ik Tu Hi Tu Hi where the song and lyrics on the soundtrack reveal the loss and longing. The film reaches a poetic level of emotion and out of the physical real world. The beautiful cinematography adds to the appeal of the song.

Edited by Sreekar Prasad

One of the major problems of a lot of the audiences is the length and pace of the film.
However I did not really feel impatient due to the length or pace and the subject requires a certain treatment. If the subject and if the film is about longing and separation a slow pace is not against it if there is grace and sensitivity to support it.

Parallel cutting (infact its one of the basic vocabulary for editing) is often used in the film ranging from cliché to symbolism.

The scene where Harry as a fighter pilot is about to crash, we cut to Aayat getting up all startled and then when he lands we see her praying so typical and still prevalent.

In the climax of the film we have the intercutting of a happy marriage dance (Harry’s fat friend) of the dandiya cut with the preparation of the violent mob . The acquiring of the dandiyas to celebrate and the rioters acquiring the tools of destruction. The screams of death and the sounds of merriment. Ofcourse the scene ends with the violence taking hold of the merriment and destroying it.

Cinematography and Production Design
Cinematography: Binod Pradhan
Production design: Samir Chanda

Special credit to be given to Binod Pradhan for the entire look and feel of the film right from the nuances of lighting to capturing the beauty of Aayat and maintaining the sensitivity of significant moments in the film like the lovers meeting in the tunnel concrete pipes in Scotland and the beautiful crane shot in the song Ik Tu Hi Tu Hi which begins with Fatema in the Kashmiri emporium and ends at Ayat in the house on top.
The closeup of Ayat on the railway station while she bids goodbye to her father is a lovely moment captured poetically with the moving train and her expression.

The production design revealed hardwork and good aesthetics and each frame had detailing which was significant to bring alive the scene. Right from the symbolic colour palette of white and red for the lovers to the choice of colours in the architecture – a lot was being said and helped highlight the work of the cinematographer and actor. The Punjabi family is situated in a village and the river by the banks is an interesting location that establishes the setting and adds a character and etches it in your memory.

The motif of the Tunnel/Concrete pipes

The concrete water pipes are first seen in the village of Mallukot, where Harry and his friends are discussing their future.

Then they appear in Scotland where the two lovers meet. Harry is with Aayat and in the rain on the streets we find them there. There is a poignant scene here that takes place which involves the love story and a message gently slipped through.

The pipes reappear in the climax of the film when the lovers are reunited amidst the riots of Ahmedabad. Harry rescues Aayat and they hide among these pipes. Aayat asks Harry who are these people and he says “Bhayanak Saye hai, jinke na chehre hai, na naam”.

This space is that of a tunnel and strongly associated with the hero of the film, Harry. This is his space where we find him in different stages of his life – his youth in the fields of the village in Punjab – with his lover in Scotland – protecting his lover from the rioters, but in the two instances before they seem secure and are not penetrated but in the last scene even this space is not safe and Harry is forced to leave. We then see him rescuing a white horse and then arriving at a deserted mela (which was established in a scene earlier as a setting close to the marriage venue Harry was attending).

I will leave you to ponder why you feel the director is using these objects as a motif throughout the film.