In geography, antipodes are places you’d reach on the other side if you were to tunnel straight through the Earth’s centre. In India’s case, the closest landmass is South America.
They say that antipodes share certain characteristics. Being a developing society much like our own, South America’s woes have resulted in some excellent cinema. It is easy to draw parallels between today’s India and many of the best acclaimed films from countries in South America.
Here’s our pick of films that, with a bit of imagination, mirror India:
1. Por Primera Vez (For the First Time, Cuba, 1969)
The shortest film on this list (around 10 mins) is a Cuban documentary by Octavio Cortazar. A travelling film projectionist screens the famous Chaplin flick Modern Times to a remote village’s inhabitants who have never seen a motion picture before. After brief interviews with the villagers, the last 4 minutes concentrate on their heart-warming reactions to Chaplin’s antics. It’s not difficult to imagine this scenario unravelling here as well, since travelling projectionists still operate in several of India’s remote regions. Watch it here.
2. Nueve Reinas (Nine Queens, Argentina, 2000)
A superb story about two con artists who get together to pull off a quick one on a wealthy (but dangerous) stamp collector. A counterfeit copy of the rare Nine Queens postage stamp is on offer, and the duo ropes in several other characters to help them conclude the hefty sale. The evergreen and super-hot Ricardo Darin plays one of his best lead characters that isn’t brooding for a change. The direction and storyline is also slick and twisted to a point that keeps the viewer guessing. This film could be a tribute to the many schemers who haunt popular tourist spots in Delhi or Mumbai.
3. Cidade de Deus (City of God, Brazil, 2002)
What can be said about this movie that hasn’t already been said? Based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Paulo Lins, the movie traces the lives of three young men and the petty crimes they commit in the violent favela of the same name in Rio de Janeiro. The setting is gritty, and visually similar to Mumbai’s Dharavi or any slum in India. Several characters were also cast from Cidade de Deus and nearby favelas, lending the screenplay a gonzo authenticity. However, redemption lies at the end of the road. While the real-life person went on to become a writer, the on-screen character becomes an acclaimed photographer, which makes this film a must-watch for all photographers as well.
4. Luna De Avellaneda (Avellaneda’s Moon, Argentina, 2004)
Orchestrated by Juan Jose Campanella, the underlying theme of this film is about community and vanishing spaces in a modern world. Ricardo Darin plays Román, a child born during an annual gathering at Luna de Avellaneda – the buzzing sports and social club of a suburban community in Buenos Aires. The circumstances of his birth provide him a life-long membership card, but the glory days of the club go downhill as Román grows up. Now, it’s up to him to save the beloved club before it is demolished to make way for a casino. This wonderful movie finds parallels in almost all Indian cities, especially Bangalore, where older institutions crumble to accommodate contemporary tastes and times, and should be watched by metro-dwellers who still nurture the sensitivity to appreciate the past.
5. NO (Chile, 2012)
Gael Garcia Bernal ditches the motorcycle to play René Saavedra, a copywriter in this cerebral film. In 1988, notorious dictator Augusto Pinochet draws a referendum, and people have to say “Yes” or “No” to another 8 years of the regime. Given the political climate, where opponents simply “disappeared”, Saavedra and his team draw up a campaign for the “No” side, eventually managing to bring the dictator down. Thoughtful, smart and inventive, this film is an important watch for everyone to safeguard against the rise of fascist ideologies and power-hungry politicians in India. Best part? It is based on a real-life story.
Image Credit: Imdb.com