The Black Garment

Drawn from short stories by Steinbeckian Indian author Sadaat Hasan Manto, adapter-director Fareeda's debut feature "The Black Garment" has style and atmosphere, but a far too slippery grasp on narrative.

With:
With: Sureka Sikri, Sadiya Siddiqui, Irfan Khan, Jeetsu Shastri, Vrajesh Hirjee, Kay Kay, Sheeba Chaddha.

Drawn from short stories by Steinbeckian Indian author Sadaat Hasan Manto, adapter-director Fareeda’s debut feature “The Black Garment” has style and atmosphere, but a far too slippery grasp on narrative. As a result, seriocomic mosaic loses interest after a while. But it’s accomplished enough to continue traveling the fest circuit, and evinces enough talent to suggest helmer as one to watch.

Nominal protag is Sultana, a prostitute who’d prospered with pimp Khudabaksh in their small town. But moving to Bombay has proven a bad idea; despite her looks and guile, customers are few, while his hopes of becoming a professional photographer lead nowhere. Slim suspense is built around whether the now-broke Sultana can finagle a black garment she needs for a religious festival. But for most part, pic weaves hazily from one underdeveloped plot strand to another, with larger-than-life characters in the slum neighborhood including wise older prosties, an alcoholic-writer stand-in for real-life Manto, a local “godfather” who loses his confidence with his treasured mustache, et al. Pic benefits from stylized realism in production design and saturated-color lensing.

The Black Garment

Production: An Andaaz Prods. presentation in association with F for Film and the National Film Development Corp. Produced by Paveen Kumar. Directed by Fareeda. Screenplay by Fareeda, adapted from stories by Saadat Hasan Manto.

Crew: Camera (color), Avijit Mukul Kishore; editor, Aseem Sinha; music, Ved Nair; production designer, Bhupen Khakhar. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (Cinema of Tomorrow), Aug. 24, 2002. Hindi dialogue with English subtitles. Running time: 117 MIN.

With: With: Sureka Sikri, Sadiya Siddiqui, Irfan Khan, Jeetsu Shastri, Vrajesh Hirjee, Kay Kay, Sheeba Chaddha.

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