Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda Seventh Horse of the Sun

(In Bengali; English subtitles)

(In Bengali; English subtitles)

Acolorful compendium of Indian folk tales and modern-day polemics, “Seventh Horse of the Sun” is as expertly told as a favorite campfire saga, and as haunting as a dimly remembered love song. It will take a bold market-minded rider, however, to get this horse to run in foreign orbits.

“Don’t tell the kind of story where events just pile up on top of each other, ” pleads one of the young professional men who gather frequently to hear tales spun by Manek Mulla (soulfully handsome Amrish Puri).

But Manek takes his own sweet time spinning stories, which veer between the intensely personal and the mythically grand. Whether he’s talking about his own harsh schooldays or the gilded carriage of an unhappy princess, the tales always seem to involve sharp longing and sudden separation, along with digressions into Marxist dialectic.

Vet helmer Shyam Benegal imbues each flashback segment with a different tint of color and mood, but never gets too schematic about it. There are dark moments in the most farcical passages, and hints of comedy even in quasi-mystical parts: An apparently devoted servant suggests impotence-curing tasks to his master that are Herculean to the point of absurdity (that’s where the equestrian title comes in). Stunningly lensed events are moved along nicely by Vanraj Bhatia’s synth and sitar score.

Most of the characters, and tones, come together in the wildly climactic section in which Manek woos a feisty Gypsy woman (“Gypsy,” for these Bengalis, actually means Iranian) and ends up so troubled by her loss, his objectivity as a raconteur is ultimately subverted. Clever, richly understated stuff, and it never feels long.

Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda Seventh Horse of the Sun

(Indian -- Drama -- Color)

Production: A National Film Development Corp. production. Produced by Doordarshan. Directed by Shyam Benegal. Screenplay, Shama Zaida.

Crew: Camera (color), Piyush Shah; editor, Bhanudas Divkar; music, Vanraj Bhatia. Reviewed at Vancouver Intl. Film Festival, Oct. 6, 1993. Running time: 124 min.

With: With: Amrish Puri, Neena Gupta, Ila Arun, K.K. Raina, Pallavi Joshi.

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