A great Asian love story, an unforgettable tale about passion, death and reincarnation. A mesmerizing Himalayan epic that spans two centuries, from the Silk Route of the early 19th century to the bustling metropolis of modern-day Tokyo.
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Along the highest mountain passes of the Himalayas, tough, intrepid Jalan (Milind Soman) and his gang earn their living by stealing from unsuspecting travelers. Abiding by their own, unique codes of honor and dividing the spoils equally, all is routine until the arrival of the mystifying, beautiful Ushna (Mylene Jampanoi). Appearing mysteriously after the raid of a pilgrim caravan, Ushna adheres to Jalan, claiming to have seen him in her dreams, and refusing to leave his side. Sensing the unease of the rest of the men, Ushna offers to help them in their endeavors, under condition that they not ask why or how she is able to guide them to success. In the time that follows, Ushna leads the gang to tremendous exploits, gaining the respect of the men, and the admiration of Jalan, who begins to fall passionately in love with this mysterious woman. As their success increases, seemingly unstoppable, so the love between Jalan and Ushna mounts in intensity, until they seem to have entered a ...Written by
Yesterday I had an opportunity to attend the private screening of integral version of Valley of Flowers (155minutes!!) in the "chick" Planet Hollywood on Champs-Elysees in Paris. The film made huge impact on me. A week earlier I saw The Fountain (2006) by Darren Aronofsky. I liked the Fountain as well but it is Valley of Flowers sent my brain spinning.
The reason I mentioned the Fountain is because I was struck by the similarities of the theme in these two movies love across ages, death and immortality, man's fight against time Human beings in constant state of seeking equilibrium in love, life, nature and human nature.
Both Aronofsky and Nalin are known for invading the unknown realms of the real and surreal world. Though Valley is just a second feature of Pan Nalin, but the maturity he displays in handling of his subject matter is truly astounding. Valley of Flowers is truly an independent film compare to giant 35million dollar Fountain with star cast. Fountain is witnessing a vast release worldwide. Meanwhile Valley might not even make it to our domestic screen here in US. However, It is Nalin's film, which stirred me so deep, I felt a true sense of unearthing and that made me write, my very first comment on IMDb.
I know nothing about Buddhism or Yeti or Tibet or Himalaya. But that did not matter; the film gave me enough to chew. Of course the Himalayan parts are breathtaking, like in his earlier Samsara (2001), but here the "landscapes of faces" of Bandits are awesome. Costume and Production design are top-notch, aesthetics better and higher than many multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbusters.
Nalin's cinematic sense, and certain trance like camera movements are evocative; his girls are divine (even though they are playing demon). Again like in Samsara, Nalin discovers Mylene Jampanoi; a French Chinese actress gets a break to do her first feature. Nalin auditioned several hundreds across the world before discovering Mylene. Indian actor Milind Soman is less impressive but Naseeruddin Shah again proves his talent as one of the greatest actor of Asian cinema in his brilliant interpretation of yeti.
Nalin also proves his talent as an extraordinary screenwriter, he wrote both Samsara and Valley of Flowers. His cinematic structures do not follow any recognizable genre or style. His dialogs and editing is constantly breaking rules must mention an amazing scene of hero's "time walk" in Valley of Flowers with simple cuts on pair of feet walking from early 19th century to modern day Tokyo. This scene in itself is a cinematic poetry in the realms of Rilke or Rumi.
I've been professor of Japanese Culture and society and dealt with many of the themes of Pan Nalin's movies. Nalin's portrayal of modern day Tokyo makes keen observation about existence of superstitions, demon and notion of death in Japan. Nalin manages to penetrate the layers of modern day Japanese life very effectively. Unfortunately, in the Fountain, Aronofsky fails to display similar command in scenes of ancient Spain and modern day medicine episode.
Again it is amazing coincidence how Aronofsky and Pan Nalin, both these young filmmakers chose their hero in modern times to be a Doctor. Controversial Dr. Zinelli of Dignitas of Zurich who assisted several people in their voluntary death inspires Nalin's modern day hero. Meanwhile Aronofsky's hero researches to fight cancer. Again Nalin's episode in modern day Tokyo leads to a sublime conclusion of the story where many twists are revealed, love and lovers are sacrificed -in some of the most poetic and memorable scenes in history of modern-Asian cinema.
I ask this question several times to myself why the festivals like Cannes, Venice, Berlin or Pusan have failed to highlight this talented filmmaker from India. I've been huge fan of Satyaji Ray but now nearly 50 years later there is a filmmaker emerging from India with a new voice and new style new energy - a truly modern and universal filmmaker. I am sorry to say there have been many others in between like Mira Nair or Shyam Benegal or Das Gupta but Pan Nalin is beyond, he is in another league all together. With his two features, I have this intuition that there is something churning within this filmmaker like a volcano. The day that volcano finds voice we will witness an existence and acknowledgment of a brilliant filmmaker. Is anyone listening in Hollywood?
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