Agni Varsha in Colombo
The Bollywood film Agni Varsha (Fire and Water) will be screened at the Liberty Cinema from the 25th of this month.
The film is typically Bollywood but atypical too. It is an adaptation of a play by the noted Indian dramatist Girish Karnad, based on The Myth of Yavakri from the Mahabharata. Thus the film is epic, wide in scope, two hours long and has the usual ingredients: song, dance, injustice, and justice for the unfairly treated at the end. It has much more. A strong story, or two entwined; beautiful women who are shown to be wise and sensible, love and lust, betrayal and sacrifice and Amitabh Bachan as God Indra.
The themes are many: ambition and hubris leading to destruction in the end; dominance of powerful men over women, but the latters innate sense and sensibility being acknowledged even by the domineering men; and of course love and passion, and the greater glory of sacrifice. At the very end the hero holds his love in his arms, honour killed by her husband in retribution for deserting him to nurse her former man back to health. The god appears and tells him the choice is his: bring back the girl to life but with it bring back time - repeat history - or release a spirit kept in thrall by the magic of a Brahmin sage. The young man decides to give freedom to the spirit as that would have been the girls choice - release a soul from eternal damnation, not bring back to life one individual.
It is set in a parched part of India where the ruler has decreed a sacrifice by fire to invoke rain to break a decade long drought. The chief Brahmin priest Paravasu (Jackie Shroff) who left his wife Vishakha (Raveena Tandon) and conjugal delight of one year to assume the position of head priest, which the king confers on him overlooking his father, the great sage Raibya (Mohan Agash), is immersed in prayers before a fire at the great sage Raibya (Mohan Agash), is immersed in prayers before a fire at the beginning of the film beginning of the film.
His younger brother Aravasu (Milind Soman), meanwhile, is having a good time chasing Nitilai (Sonali Kulkarni) a beautiful tribal girl. They happen to come upon recently returned Yavakri, making love to Vishakha who, before she married Paravasu, had been in love with Yavakri (Nagarjuna Prabhudeva). He is a would-be sage who was on a ten year meditation retreat seeking perfect knowledge. This act of love sets the tragedy rolling. The old sage is greatly angered by Yavakri and his daughter-in-law and brings into being a terrible devil to kill Yavakri, which he does. Paravasu, led by passion for his wife, pays a visit home to be told by the father, "The sight of my luscious daughter-in-law is enough to keep me in good shape". He kills his father and places the blame on his younger brother, Aravasu. This unfortunate is late in arriving at the tribal meeting which was set up to marry him to Nitilai. After sundown she is married off to another.
And so the convoluted tragedy where Pravasu is confronted with his own guilt by a Hamlet like situation where a band of players who have taken Aravasu and Nitilai in to their group enact the betrayal of the elder brother. Paravasu sacrifices himself in the fire and God Indra appears, and Aravasu makes his choice and the rain pours down.
It is Indian in representation but Greek theatre in the hubris of Paravasu and his father and the part played by beautiful women. It is the first film in a series to be released in the US under the umbrella title of "Beyond Bollywood" by Cinebella Entertainment, recently formed to distribute quality Indian and South Asian films, after the success of Lagaan in the West, followed by Devdas.
Agni Varsha is the maiden production of director Arjun Sajnani. Subtitles in English are a bonus. A further bonus is, at least to me, giving ear to beautiful Hindi and recognising the similarity to Sinhala words.
We are very lucky to be having good film fare given us by Cinema
Entertainments (Pvt) Ltd which "takes pride in importing, distributing and exhibiting
blockbuster films". That statement is not hyperbolic, but the plain truth since they
intend importing Chicago... Chicago? Yes, the very same Chicago that bagged six
Oscars at this years awards.
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