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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Film: Frozen: A warm Ladakhi fare

May 19, 2009

The story is pretty straight forward. Karma
(Danny Denzongpa) is an ageing widower, who is
finding it difficult to make ends meet. He has a
daughter Lasya (Gauri) and a son Chomo (Angchuk).
His young wife (Shilpa Shukla) is no more..
MeriNews (India)
May 18, 2009

  NO, THIS is not an English movie. It is an
Indian movie made in Hindi and Ladakhi language
with English sub-titles. Debutant director
Shivajee Chandrabhushan (35) is also the producer of Frozen (February 2007).

Since 2007 it has been circulating in film
festivals and art houses and is a subject of
students of cinema. After winning numerous
awards, it has now been released in Mumbai on May
8. It will soon release in other cities too.

Not much is known about Ladhaki cinema. The
people speaking Ladhakhi run in a couple of
lakhs. And they are bowled over by Bollywood.
Still, Tsewang Dorje is the first Ladakhi actor.
On regional level, projects are not adequately
funded so it is difficult to make movies here.
But foreigners have made some interesting movies
like Elsewhere (2001) and Samsara (2000).

Ladakh is a region in Jammu and Kashmir State. At
one time, people used to mention it together as
JKL (Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh). But with divisions
of the region, J&K has lost its crown status. It
has split in Pakistan-occupied Azad
Kashmir/Baltistan. China claims Aksai Chin and
Shaksgam Valley. There is the Indian Army’s take
over of Siachen Glacier. The army took it over 25
years ago and Frozen depicts a part of it.

Ladakhis share cultural ties with Tibet. Ladakh
itself is called ‘Little Tibet’. Most of them are
Buddhists (in Leh) and others are Shia Muslims
(in Kargil). Leh and Kargil are Ladakh’s two
districts. There is a demand to make Ladakh a
union territory. With harsh weather and
mountainous region, it is not easy to shoot here.
Ladakhis therefore depend on tourism mainly.

Ladakhi language is generally called Western
Archaic Tibetan. It is not even considered a
distinct language. And its speakers run in a
couple of lakhs only. This makes it difficult (if
not impossible) to promote it on a wider scale.
And movies are a means to promote.

Amidst all these difficulties (funds, weather,
locale, political scenario, etc) it is a wonder
that such a visually delightful movie has been
made in a long while. It is of 109 minutes
duration. In today’s times when Mughal E Azam has
been turned into colour, Frozen has been shot in black and white.

Shivajee is a photographer by profession and he
knows best. This is the first Hindi movie after
40 years to be shot and released in B&W. In this
movie B&W complements the stark reality of the
mountains and also the family’s situation.

The story is pretty straight forward. Karma
(Tshering Phintso Danny Denzongpa) is an ageing
widower, who is finding it difficult to make ends
meet. He has a daughter Lasya (Gauri) and a son
Chomo (Angchuk). His young wife (Shilpa Shukla of
Chak De India fame) is no more and that adds to
his woes. He sells apricot jams but finds no
buyers as machine-made products inundate market.

Karma has to pay back the debt too and the
moneylender Sharma (Yashpal Sharma) is breathing
down his neck. As they say, all troubles come at
once. The army regiment suddenly requisitions his
ancestral lands for an outpost. So, he cannot
sell the land to pay off the debt. Lecherous
Sharma desires money and his daughter Lasya too.

Karma decides to marry off Lasya for her stable
future. Laysa maybe 18 but she is childish,
bubbly and rebellious in behaviour. Is there a
way out for Karma? That forms the later part of
the movie that is actually a journey of a
lifetime. The movie is seen from the eyes of Lasya.

Danny (61) with his towering personality has
infused life in the role of a burdened old man.
He is the backbone of the movie. This is his
150th movie. The role was earlier given up by
Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri. Their loss was
Danny’s gain. And he fits the bill to the T. With
his chinky looks and Sikkimese background, he is
the true son of the mountains. Danny has
definitely come a long way from his early villainous roles.

The cast is ably supported by Shakeel Khan, Raj
Zutshi and Aamir Bashir. Watch out for Yashpal
Sharma, who has turned in a good performance.

The music is tailor-made for the movie.
Emotionally the viewer may not connect with the
movie. It is as bland and barren as the
mountains. But the cinematography is out of the
world. The film was shot in 28 days flat at a
height of 12,000 feet above sea level with -25 degree temperature.

Frozen has already won 18 awards and critical
acclaim all over the world, including the British
Independent Film Awards, European Film Awards,
Spirit Awards, Gotham Awards, Dubai International
Film Festival, Los Angeles LGBT People of Color
Film Festival, Artivist Film Festival and
Stockholm Film Festival. It has won the Special
Jury Prize at Delhi’s Osian’s-CineFan and has
toured 30 film festivals including Toronto Film Festival.

Don’t look for any popular naach-gaana stuff here.

Suffice it to say, it is a slice of life.
Experience it. You will end up enjoying the difference.

With Frozen, the first segment of my (reviews of)
Regional Film Festival too comes to a productive
end. I have done it for the first time and it was
kinda enormous. I learnt a lot as I believe in
‘no pain, no gain." Must say, I enjoyed the novel
experience what with a varied Marathi, Tamil,
Punjabi, Bhojpuri, Kashmiri, Bengali and Ladakhi fare.

Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. That will
be the icing on the cake. I will do a second
segment of regional movie reviews too but not in
the immediate future. Bollywood beckons for now. But do stay tuned.

You never know when you will turn lucky with my
surprises. This one was courtesy the on-going
strike. Despite the strike a new movie has
released this week. The dry spell is over. And
hopefully we are done with cold-storage stuff. It
calls for a celebration. Happy days are here again.
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