More Tribeca from Nathaniel...
Have you ever felt cheated by a movie you actually liked? If so sit down next to me and let's talk Vara: A Blessing over popcorn.
Vara: A Blessing
A general rule of thumb for non A-list film festivals: the foreign films will be better than the home-grown product. (There's a reason some films don't win the lottery of distribution beyond bad luck). So of all the films I saw at Tribeca one that I was quite excited for was Vara: A Secret, which is about a temple dancer named Lila (played with impish gorgeousity by Shahana Goswami) who is obsessed with Krishna, the blue skinned god. She decides to pose for a lowly field worker named Shyam who wants to be a sculptor. That's something quite above his station and will anger the village if they find out.
Shyam looks like this...
(and this isn't even a particularly flattering photo of first time acting beauty Devesh Rajan)
...which means Lila is in deep trouble and not just from spiritual ecstasy. She starts picturing Shyam as Krishna with blue skin in stylized hallucinations and continues to dance up a passionate storm, exciting the wealthy Landlord who is looking for a young wife. Lots of drama of the spiritual, social, political and carnal nature follows.
I was thoroughly engaged though you can see a lot of the plot points coming a mile away rendering several scenes redundant or extraneous when the film only really takes off whenever it ditches plot for Lila's imagination and worship; more dancing and hallucinations, please.
Maybe it's reductive of me, but I enjoy feeling like I've learned something about "exotic" (sorry) cultures when I go to the movies - escapism with subtitles. So color me perplexed that this extremely Indian film (very steeped in old school traditions and the caste system and the taxonomy of Hindi gods) was in English!!! I felt cheated that I didn't get to read the screen. (This also killed the US release of Kon-Tiki for me since I was so looking forward to all those hunky blonde Scandinavians speaking Norsk. Foreign actors speaking English in movies from their home country? No sale!)
Well, there were subtitles but Vara doesn't need them at all because all of the actors speak English well (the only time I've ever needed subtitles for English language films is during slang-filled movies about the British/Irish/Scottish underclasses, Trainspotting and Fish Tank and the like - you know the type.) B/B-