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Payal Kapadia’s Moving Mumbai Drama

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Again in 2021, Indian filmmaker Payal Kapadia got here to Cannes along with her first feature-length work, A Night time of Figuring out Nothing, which went on to win the competition’s Golden Eye prize for Finest Documentary. The label is considerably deceiving: Composed as a found-footage film about love, loss and movie college students engulfed in protests towards Narendra Modi’s authorities, the film performed much less like a documentary than a fictional collage of documentary parts, carving a tragic story out of bits and items of actual life.

Kapadia’s shifting second function, All We Think about as Mild, begins off in the same vein. The digicam glides via the streets of Mumbai at evening, passing via outside markets illuminated by fluorescent lights, like tiny cities unto themselves. On the soundtrack we hear individuals speaking about their experiences in India’s largest metropolis: “I always have the feeling that I’m going to leave,” one individual says. Then in some unspecified time in the future we deal with a lady commuting dwelling by prepare, and the story begins.

All We Think about as Mild

The Backside Line

A wealthy story of affection and loss within the large metropolis.

Venue: Cannes Movie Pageant (Competitors)
Solid: Kani Kusruti, Divya Prabha, Chhaya Kadam, Hridhu Haroon
Director, screenwriter: Payal Kapadia

1 hour 54 minutes

That girl is Prabha (Kani Kusruti), a nurse who works lengthy hours in one of many metropolis’s many hospitals and finishes her duties manner after darkish. She’s clearly no pushover and does her job effectively, taking cost of different nurses within the obstetrics ward and dealing effectively with sufferers — together with, at one level, a 24-year-old mom of three kids who needs her husband to get a vasectomy, for which the Indian authorities presents a small monetary reward.

These early sequences have a documentary taste to them as effectively, however they’re nonetheless telling — particularly once we understand that in contrast to many of the sufferers she treats, Prabha could be very a lot a lady on her personal. She does, in actual fact, have a husband, however he’s been working in Germany for years and so they hardly communicate anymore. And she or he additionally has a roommate, Anu (Divya Prabha), a vigorous woman employed on the identical hospital who’s been relationship a younger Muslim man, Shiaz (Hridhu Haroon) — a incontrovertible fact that she retains hidden from Prabha and the opposite nurses.

Because the fictional aspect progressively takes over, we observe Prabha and Anu whereas they drift between work, their routines afterward and their lengthy commutes to their house, in a every day and nightly grind backed by Dhritiman Das’ jazzy piano rating. That music completely encapsulates the tone Kapadia goes for: one thing melancholic but in addition reasonably playful, in a movie that’s finally extra of a romantic dramedy than a pure drama. There’s loads of disappointment right here, but in addition numerous humor and feminine camaraderie.

Prabha and Anu appear to have a lot in widespread, reminiscent of the truth that they each hail from the Indian state of Kerala and communicate Malayalam (within the hospital the docs communicate Hindi). Like so many different individuals, they’ve come to Mumbai to begin a brand new life, and All We Think about as Mild recollects sure movies by Satyajit Ray, reminiscent of The World of Apu and The Huge Metropolis, during which small-town of us quit part of themselves as they shift to city residing.

However the two ladies additionally sit on reverse ends of the romantic spectrum: Anu is within the midst of a passionate love story that’s hampered by the truth that Shiaz is Muslim and he or she’s Hindu. The couple has nowhere to go to be alone, which suggests they spend plenty of time making out in public. In a single telling and reasonably amusing sequence, Anu goes to purchase a burka in order that she will sneak into Shiaz’s house, solely to study that his household has come dwelling early.

Prabha, in the meantime, tries to stay trustworthy to her faraway husband, averting the advances of a physician who’s clearly smitten along with her. In some unspecified time in the future a package deal arrives from Germany: It’s a state-of-the-art stress cooker, despatched by her partner as a present. As unromantic as that sounds, Prabha nonetheless wanders into the kitchen one evening and wraps her legs across the machine, in a heartbreaking try to seek out some intimacy.

All We Think about as Mild is about so far as you may get from the stylistics of Bollywood’s masala musicals, even when there’s one brief and memorable impromptu dance scene towards the tip. And but its story of ladies on the lookout for love and happiness in a calamitous world brings to thoughts these widespread Mumbai-set motion pictures, during which heroines undergo loads of heartbreak earlier than issues ultimately work out.

This occurs, in a way, throughout the movie’s third act, when Prabha and Anu accompany an older colleague, Parvaty (Chhaya Kadam), on her journey again to the seaside village the place she grew up — and the place she’s been pressured to maneuver after life has grow to be unaffordable, even for a girl like her with a gradual job.

The transition from metropolis to nation permits the three mates to breathe freely once more: They drink and dance and open up to each other in methods they may by no means do again in Mumbai. Each Prabha and Anu additionally handle to find issues about themselves and their love lives — whether or not it’s Prabha coming to phrases along with her marriage or Anu consummating her ardour for Shiaz. The latter sequence is shockingly sensual and appears to interrupt a number of taboos, exhibiting a Hindu girl and Muslim man making love at a time when India’s prime minister appears to be doing all he can to ignite tensions between the 2 religions.

Kapadia and DP Ranabir Das seize these closing sequences with the identical elegantly grainy look they apply to the remainder of the movie, though one thing non secular and barely phantasmagoric creeps into the narrative on the finish. It’s as if fleeing the town has allowed the ladies to succeed in the next state of being — the “light” described within the film’s poetic title transforms from the tough neons of Mumbai’s streets at evening to the calm mild of the setting solar, the place the buddies can lastly discover some peace.

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