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Old September 4th, 2016, 03:49 PM
ashdoc ashdoc is offline
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Re: Movie reviews of some off beat films that I saw recently

Kundun ( 1997 )

This film tells the story of his holiness the Dalai lama , the spiritual and the political leader of Tibet who is affectionately called 'Kundun' by his people . Regarded as the living manifestation of the Lord Buddha , the Dalai lama is regarded as God himself in Tibet . The film was made by Martin Scorsese with co operation of the Dalai lama and his family along with other Tibetans . It tells the story of the Dalai lama while he lived upto his youth in Tibet , but ends at his self imposed exile into India . It does not tell how the Dalai lama spent and continues to spend the rest of his life trying to work out some solution to the brutal Chinese occupation of Tibet .

The film begins with monks coming to the Dalai lama's birth place , first in disguise and then openly to identify him in childhood . He is just a toddler when he is given things to pick , and when he picks out things which were property of the previous Dalai lama then he is identified as the next Dalai lama . He is taken to the Potala palace in Tibetan capital city Lhasa , where his education begins .

Frankly , this first part of the movie was somewhat boring , for it showed us the wonder that the young child felt at the new things around him ; the story simply didn't seem to get a start . Of course , real care has been taken to show tibetan traditions and customs , but to westernized persons these must look like a morass of superstitions and otherworldly traditions . And who cares for the customs of some godforsaken place that is inaccessible across the mighty Himalayas....

What held me however was the enthralling music in true and rich Tibetan style , something that was present throughout the movie . The blow of the Tibetan horns somehow seemed to convey a sense of impending doom , and the doom arrived in due course in the form of the invading Chinese . This was the reason why I was watching the movie anyway , and the reason why it was made ; had Tibet remained an independent country , no one would have made or seen any movie on it---it was the Chinese invasion and rape of that land that made it such a cause celebre.....

From being immersed in some ancient rituals and hanging out among animals like peacocks in his palace , the Dalai lama is rudely awakened to the fact that his country is under foreign occupation and that he can do nothing about it . At first the officers of the Chinese army are respectful to him but as the movie progresses they become more and more rude . Chairman Mao , whom the Dalai lama goes to visit in Peking / Beijing , is outwardly friendly but to him religion and any person practising it is poison .

As his own people tell him of horror stories of Chinese persecution and he comes to know of them being killed by the Chinese , the Dalai lama feels himself in danger . One night he and his entourage flee across the mountains towards India . The last shot of the Dalai lama in Tibet is truly heartrending . He turns to say goodbye to the soldiers who escorted him to the Indian border and has a vision of them bloodspattered and shot dead by the Chinese , for that is exactly what is going to happen to them as also the the rest of the Tibetan people . There is little hope of him ever being able to return to his homeland again....

Of course , given the immense human tragedy of the destruction wrought by the Chinese in Tibet , the necessity of making such a movie is obvious . This is especially true because the Tibetans are a gentle people , wedded to the arts of peace rather than war---one of the few peoples on earth to be so .

As an Indian whose country has given refuge to the Dalai lama and hundreds of thousands of Tibetan refugees , my sympathies invariably lay with the Tibetans....and as the movie progressed I could not help but be moved by what was unfolding on the screen . This despite the fact that I had waited shamelessly for the Chinese to emerge on screen to get the story really moving .

Photography and picturization of Tibet is really perfect , and you get a authentic glimpse into Tibetan culture if you are interested in it---though actually I wasn't to be honest . Every cloth , every frame has been carefully constructed , and is rich with colour . But in the end all the colours are swept away by the hand of fate....for as predicted in the movie , he and his entourage are reduced from kings to wandering people who are saved only because the Indians agree to give refuge to them at terrible price to themselves ; the Indians have to incur the unending enemity of the Chinese for that act ( the last part of the sentence is not shown in the movie , but as an Indian I have to say it ) .

The movie will be liked only by the art film lovers , and also by those interested in history---I am both . But those interested in commercial fare can go for 'Seven years in Tibet ' which tells the story of a German's quest for reaching Tibet and his friendship with the Dalai lama . But 'Kundun' is the more authentic movie , if you are really interested in authenticity .

Verdict--decent .
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