Here is, as promised, the second set of reviews of films in the PIFF 2005. I saw sixteen films in the festival, out of which four were mere time-fillers – just a place to catch some sleep before going off to my German class, mainly because I like the class too much to fall asleep there.

I have reviewed only seven of the sixteen films. I have written reviews of the others, but most of these reviews are now pointless, four of them because they are mere notes on films I did not see, and the others because they included Page 3, which everyone knows, and Black Friday and Shwaas, both of which were vastly underwhelming.

All the films reviewed below are Indian films, and so are many of the films I didn’t review. The truth is that this was the first film festival I ever attended, so I chose territory that was as familiar as possible. And in some cases, it was all about watching a film that might not be released, or would be cut before releasing (Black Friday, Amu) or one that I would otherwise have to pay to watch (Page 3). Trust me, that won’t happen next time.

Amu (India) : This is a fabulous film. I didn’t actually get to see this at the first showing, but the prints for Black Friday were a day late, and they showed this once more instead of that one, so I got to see it. It is about the Delhi riots of ’84 in which thousands of Sikhs were killed. This period of recent history has a veal of silence before it, and nobody wants to talk about it, and one girl, Kaju (played wonderfully by Konkona Sen-Sharma, whom we saw in Mr. and Mrs. Iyer before this one, and who also appears in Page 3), is determined to find out who her birth-parents were, and how they were related to these riots. This scores over other films of the type by being highly sensitive, and being more-or-less abhorrent of violence, and not just in theory, but in practice as well. This film is written and directed by debutante Shonali Bose, who displays a distinct talent for working with actors, extracting performances ranging from very competent to tear-inducingly good. And her sense of style and visual flair (which isn’t usually paid much attention to in Indian films) are also developed enough to expect more great things from her in the future. (****½)

Sail (India) : I expected a lot from this film, and it didn’t quite deliver, although it wasn’t an utter disappointment either. It features Reema and Mohan Joshi, two veterans of Marathi cinema. Anyway, this film (whose title means ‘loose’) is about the effect of the outer world on married life. Mohan Joshi is a college professor (an ex-lawyer) whose car breaks down on the outskirts of a village in the middle of a rainy night. He takes refuge at a house where, it turns out, lives his ex-wife, a politician, played by Reema. The film revolves around their conversation about their life. The tone of the film is utterly sad, and the ending is bleak as well. The conversation of the couple is interesting, but the fact is that this is all the film is, and this does not make for edge-of-the-seat viewing (although you shouldn’t really expect it anyway). The film looks as if it was adapted from a play, which it very well may have been. Anyway, it isn’t a bad film, certainly worth one watch, and the ending is a huge surprise – and a very effective one. (***)

White Noise (India) : This is one of those low-budget commercial films geared towards the cosmopolitan public. It completely disregards the existence of the lower class, and concentrates on the worries and fears of the ‘starved elite’. The story is of a tv screenwriter Gauri (Koël Purie), whose affair with an executive has ended disastrously. She now feels utterly alone and destitute, and she meets Karan (Rahul Bose), a tv editor who gives her emotional support in her time of need. On the plus-side, this movie is almost utterly watchable, very well-shot and visualised (surprisingly for an ex-tv director) and also somewhat well-observed. The downside is that a lot of the time, it comes across as utterly vacuous, and there are few moments when you don’t feel that Gauri’s predicament is largely her own fault. Yes, she has been badly treated, but her reactions and her naïveté are infuriating, and you want to shake her out of it. The main reason for this is what I mentioned right at the beginning – that this film is geared towards the cosmo public, whose angst it reflects and defends, and which holds little meaning for other people. And the Doors references get on the nerve, being utterly pop-culture rather than those of a Doors fan. Still, it isn’t a bad film. Director Vinta Nanda has an excellent visual sense, and if she does films that treat their subject a little less reverently, I would love to watch them. Worth one watch. (***)