Is this a record? At the ripe old age of 85, celebrated Indian artist Maqbool Fida Husain has made his first feature film, not only writing and directing, but also working as production designer, editor and co-producer. The venerable Husain, father of modern art in the subcontinent, has essayed an ambitious Bollywood widescreen musical that charts the role played by women over the centuries in Indian life. It’s a highly artificial concept that should enthrall anyone with a love and knowledge of Indian culture, but it’s far too rarefied to find a wider audience, even at fests.
Staged on colorful, deliberately artificial, studio sets, which represent such Indian landscapes as the banks of the Ganges at Benares or the rain forests of Kerala, film centers on the mythical character Gaja Gamini (“the majestic gait of the elephant”), a sinuous dancer, played by Madhuri Dixit, whose face is never seen. Various representatives of Indian society appear, with Western art repped by Leonardo da Vinci, played by Naseeruddin Shah. Pic is visually rich, but its highly artificial style extends to the acting, which seems awkward by Western standards. A genuine curiosity.