Film Director, N. Padmakumar, standing next to a poster of his debut fictional movie, at the 21st Busan International Film Festival; in Busan, South Korea

Hari Aziz; as the name (Hindu first name & Muslim surname) itself suggests; is a mixed breed. His father is from Northern India, with Muslim roots; and his mother from South India, darker in complexion, with Hindu roots. Thus, Hari Aziz is a hybrid of a mixed race couple. Since both his intellectual parents are agnostic in nature, he has nothing to worry. They live quite a posh life, in Mumbai, India. Yet, when financial difficulties arise, we watch them getting poorer and poorer, moving into middle class housing, to even worse lower income apartments, as they descend deeper into the real India. Real, modern-day, independent India, infested with small minded archaic mentalities, extremists ideologies, thuggery and violence.

Directed by Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy, A Billion Colour Story (2016) is beautiful Indian-English language movie, shot brilliantly in Black & White, which ironically turns into colour, when the most colourful personality of this tragic tale is shot dead. I had never heard of Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy, until day before yesterday, when I watched this art movie. This is his debut feature film, he released a documentary in the summer of the same year; in the middle of the Year of the Sweets, in June 2016. A Billion Colour Story was released, later, in Autumn, that year.

With an amazing array of unknown, yet superb naturalistic acting talent, with brilliantly penned out characters, and an equally brilliant script (which too was written by Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy); this movie is a must watch. Out of all the actors, it’s the child actor, Dhruva Padmakumar; playing 11 year old, Hari Aziz, the narrator of the film; to look out for. He’s a lovely character – intelligent, very mature (in a world full of immature adults); yet shy and bashful, when a young girl, Sophia (Keya Kalyan), asks him whether he’d like to be her boyfriend. He blushes adorably. He’s a self sufficient, and trustful, kid; that his parents need not worry about. Brought up in an open-minded environment, he’s given the necessary freedom a child deserves. But of course, that doesn’t mean he is neglected. He’s showered with well endowed love and affection, and truly spoilt, to the core. No harm in spoiling him, he’s not a brat, far from it. He’s a really smart, good-hearted, kid. He knows everything there is to know about the world, thanks to his curiosity to find out about anything he hears, on his own smart phone. He doesn’t abuse the net, wasting on unnecessary hogwash, but uses his phone as it’s namesake suggests, smartly. This was Dhruva Padmakumar’s very first film appearance, and the only credited role, till date.

Vasuki, Dhruva Padmakumar and Gaurav Sharma; in a scene from A Billion Colour Story (2016)

Hari Aziz’s father, Imran Aziz (Gaurav Sharma), is lovely person. An open-minded personality, a great husband, a loving father; practically perfect. But all humans are flawed creatures, some more than others. He is a pragmatist, yet not practical. A clash of terms, let me explain. As I stated, he is a very open minded individual; not a religious person, fights against formalists – extremist attitudes, fights for justice, but is somewhat blinded by his love for his country. Despite everything going wrong, as they lose money, sink into poverty, and see inhumane attitudes, surrounded constantly with negative energy, pulling them down (it’s very hard stay afloat and positive in such a society, and I know from personal experience of having associated Sri Lankans, all over the world, and still constantly having to go through it, in this country of my own unfortunate roots, full of Lankan egos); his belief in humanity, that India is a beautiful country full of beautiful people, survives. True, India is a beautiful country; with some amazing people, but when there is so much animosity towards their inter-racial union, from both sides; he ought to have been somewhat less saintly, and a bit more intelligent. His, this, blind faith, brings about a stressful ruination of his happy life, to the extent of an imminent danger, not just to himself, but friends and family. Though am not familiar with Gaurav Sharma’s work, he seems to have starred in quite a few unheard of Hindi Films, that are critically declaimed. Yet, just because he starred in some bad movies does not necessarily mean he is a bad actor. He was superb in A Billion Colour Story; and he essayed the role of a modern man, with Muslim roots, with blind love and hope for his country, struggling to survive in a formalist, narrow-minded, society, to perfection.

Hari Aziz’s mother, Parvati Aziz (played with perfection, by a little known, South Indian actress, Vasuki); is, like her husband, yet another intelligent, modern, optimistic and very progressive individual; yet she has no blind faith in India. She loves the country, as much as her husband, but she is well aware of it’s conservative backdrop, that will never accept their interracial union, nor ever want to change for the better. She’s aware of the people’s simple minded nature, stuck in their archaic brainwashed ways, that will never learn to think for themselves. Their is no hope, and it’s not even worth trying to educate and improve such people. A total waste of time and energy. No use preaching to fools. Yet, she supports her husband unconditionally. She’s more practical than her husband. A superb wife, with a brain of her own; and the perfect mother. In this sense, the trio of family members are lucky to have each other. The perfect, free-thinking, modern family. And, they are lucky to have a great group of like minded friends. But yet, they have to deal with everyday, unnecessary stressful problems; due to self centered, inhumane people. The more they are pulled down, into living around such a cruel ignorant society; the worse life gets.

Director, Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy, seen here with his son, child actor, Dhruva Padmakumar

The family strives through heavy patience, surviving and surviving, until one day tragedy strikes. That’s when they lose all hope, and decide to leave the country (we learn earlier on that the couple met in Australia, whilst studying there). But just as they are about to leave, a ray of new hope comes there way; but at what cost. It’s too late, no matter what they do, the best thing about their life is no more; and they’d have to live with that guilt consciousness for the rest of their lives. No matter what, they’ll feel in their hearts, it was their own fault.

It’s a beautifully made, sad, heart-rending, story; told wittily through the eyes of a child. The only big flaw, was the film’s producer, Satish Kaushik’s, cameo; as a fictional film producer, named, Chopra. The scene itself, might not have been that long. YET, it drags on a bit, that it brought a “break in the continuity” of the story (a similar statement is used later in the movie); and those few minutes felt like an hour. Post that scene, the film itself felt a bit dull, for a little while (maybe due to the aftermath of that scene, making me lose interest a bit). Then it caught the pace, and moved on smoothly.

Satish Kaushik is notorious for his not so great directorial work, on Bollywood comedies and melodramas; as well as acting in them. Yet, he is a good writer, for he did co-wrote the dialogues, of one of the most notable comedies of Bollywood ever, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983); and of course he had to act in that too. And with A Billion Colour Story, he’s proved himself as a producer as well. His first (co-)production was, Mr. India (1987); a pretty good children’s film; with Anil Kapoor (an international star today), the late Sridevi (who recently died in a drowning accident), little Aftab Shivdasani (a not so well regarded Bollywood actor, as an adult star), and of course, yours truly; Satish Kaushik, as a character called “Calendar”. But he was fun in that.

Besides the stellar performances; not just by the lead trio, but also the supporting cast; including, Neha Chauhan, Swapnil Ralkar, Sumit Suri, Shashank Karmarkar and Rashmi Somvanshi (not familiar with any of them, but loved them in this film), to name some; the movie is shot spectacularly in Black and White (as I mentioned earlier). Nothing in life is Black and White, not even in a Black and White picture; there are always shades of grey. And this film itself is a great study of human psychology; the black, the white, and greys that blur the lines in between. The man responsible for the symbolic cinematography is none other than the film director, Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy, himself.

Dhruva Padmakumar, the child star of A Billion Colour Story, is the son of the film director, Padmakumar Narasimhamurthy (a.k.a. N. Padmakumar). No harm in a bit of nepotism, if they can get the job done; and Dhruva Padmakumar is a very talented young man, who does a wonderful job in the movie. With eloquent English, he narrates with pure poetry, and acts with a natural ease, making his realistic character, very relatable.

A Billion Colour Story (2016)
My Rating: Near Excellent – 9/10!!!!

N. Padmakumar’s next venture, supposedly, will be set in Sri Lanka; set against the religious and racial conflicts of this country; based on a short story by him. That would be interesting, and am really looking forward to checking it out.

I watched, A Billion Colour Story, on 2nd of May, 2018; rented on Peo TV (our Cable operator).

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