Tag Archives: Oass

Notes from the CSAFF Press Brunch

Last month’s Chicago South Asian Film Festival featured a press brunch for the attending filmmakers and members of the media. It offered a great opportunity to speak with filmmakers and hear them describe their projects in their own words. Here are some of the highlights:

Producer-actor Trupti Bhoir explained how her own experiences led her to create the Marathi film Touring Talkies, a movie about a female operator of a mobile movie truck (the kind depicted in the great Hindi film Road, Movie). At the start of her career as an independent filmmaker, Bhoir herself toured villages with a mobile movie theater to showcase her projects. In order to boost slow ticket sales, Bhoir would don her tightest sari and put on some bright red lipstick. She broke down in tears as she described standing in front of a tent full of men to present her film, only to realize that the audience wasn’t there for the movie: “There were there to see me.”

Touring Talkies — which reviewer Keyur Seta recommends — can be seen at the La Femme Film Festival in L.A. on October 17.

Director Sanjay Tripathy spoke of the fun had on-set by the veteran cast of Club 60, a movie inspired by the colorful members of the tennis club Tripathy belongs to in Mumbai. One crew member had the dubious honor of providing the cues for the movie’s many fart jokes.

Director Meera Menon mentioned a similar experience during the making of her film, the road-trip flick Farah Goes Bang: “We had some fart gags in the film, but none of them were faked.” The very funny Menon explained some of the challenges of making a female-centric sex comedy: “We initially thought we could make American Pie with women, but you can’t. What can you do with a nipple pie?”

When asked if the quality of the films at this year’s CSAFF indicated a trend toward better storytelling in Indian cinema, Abhinav Shiv Tiwari, director of Oass, answered, “Absolutely.” The film’s producer, Jimeesh Gandhi, followed up: “If your research is good, the script is good, the end product will be good.” Oass shows on October 12 at the Seattle South Asian Film Festival.

Chicago South Asian Film Festival 2013

The fourth annual Chicago South Asian Film Festival begins on Friday, September 20. The three-day festival kicks off with a gala U.S. premiere of Oass, a challenging drama about child trafficking. Click here to read my review of Oass.

Other films of particular interest to Hindi-film fans include the world premiere of Club 60, the U.S. premiere of Chor Chor Super Chor, and a screening of Shahid, which opens in theaters in India on October 18.

The festival closes on Sunday night with a screening of director Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Click here to read my review of The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Some of the artists attending CSAFF 2013 include directors Hansal Mehta (Shahid), Abhinav Shiv Tiwari (Oass), and Sanjay Tripathy (Club 60), as well as actors Priyanka Bose (Oass) and Farooq Shaikh (Club 60).

This year, the CSAFF added a great new feature for those unable to attend the fest in person: the CSAFF Online Film Festival. A dedicated Vimeo channel allows fans to screen several of the short films featured at this year’s festival online. It’s a great way to expand the reach of a super film festival.

Movie Review: Oass (2012)

Oass3 Stars (out of 4)

The horrors of human trafficking seem almost unimaginable, but Oass (“The Dew Drop”) does an admirable job of depicting the experience through the eyes of a young girl caught in its web. The film is not easy to watch, but it succeeds in engendering sympathy for the 1.2 million children sold into slavery each year.

The girl at the heart of the film is Kiku (Dibya Chhetri), an 11-year-old from Nepal. She wants to attend school, but her father sees no point. He’s not heartless, just realistic: the few opportunities for work in their village dwindle every day, so there would be nowhere for Kiku to apply her education anyway.

Hope arrives in the form of Kiku’s aunt, who returns to the village clad garishly in furs and gold to emphasize her nouveau riche status. She offers to foster Kiku in the city and send her to school. Kiku and her parents agree, and the girl leaves her mountain village behind.

It quickly becomes apparent that Kiku’s aunt has sinister intentions when she stops at a police station and allows an officer to rape her niece. Kiku is sold to a brothel in Delhi, betrayed by the adult who was supposed to protect her.

The scene of Kiku’s first night in the brothel is horrific. She’s repeatedly raped, screaming continuously as a succession of men loom over her. As upsetting as the scene is to watch, it’s profoundly effective at depicting just how twisted and cruel a man has to be in order to have sex with a woman — correction, a child — who so obviously does not want to participate. I wish every person who ever blamed a woman for having provoked her own rape would watch this scene. No person could ever do anything to warrant such barbaric treatment.

Oass goes on to depict other facets of trafficking, from the illicit relationships between pimps and the police to the role of NGOs in attempting to free women from sex slavery. This fictionalized portrayal of the problem strikes more emotional chords than most documentaries typically can.

However, by taking such a wide view of the problem, the story periodically loses its focus. Kiku disappears from the narrative while the story focuses on the pimps, madams, and prostitutes that populate her world. The sidetracks highlight the complexity of the problem, but it leads to gaps in Kiku’s character development.

When the focus returns to Kiku, she undergoes rapid character changes. One minute she’s just a girl who wants to go home; the next, she’s a jaded hooker volunteering to service a new client. The choice she makes in the film’s final scene, while uplifting, feels abrupt.

Character development issues aside, Oass distills the convoluted problem of modern sex slavery into a story that touches the heart. Here’s hoping the film draws more champions to its cause by personalizing the problem in such a moving way.