Toronto International Film Festival

CHENNAI, India -- Shivaji Chandrabhushan's first feature, "Frozen," conveys in no uncertain terms his love for photography and his sociology background. In black-and-white, he paints the stark landscape of sparsely populated Ladakh, part of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, into an elevating, enriching experience. He studies this community of simple folks through the curious, often irreverent eyes of Lasya, a bubbly teenage girl essayed by Gauri. In fact, the story of "Frozen" is the story of Lasya as she grows up watching a subtle evolution around her, and Chomo, her little brother she imagines to be alive, is her sounding board.

Extremely arty and hence with little chance of opening in regular commercial cinemas, the film most likely will be confined to festival screens. Chandrabhushan's attempt to give his work a slight commercial edge by letting the camera play on Lasya, resplendent in rich Ladakhi costumes, does not quite work.

Lasya lives on barren terrain, complete with snow and leafless trees suggesting cold hostility. She grows up seeing her old father, Karma (Danny Denzongpa), losing a battle with modern existence. At the local market, his handmade jams can no longer compete with factory-produced food. The enormous debts he owes scheming moneylenders (who shamelessly suggest writing off the loans in exchange for a night with Lasya) push him to the brink of soulless mountain crevices. And when the Indian army sets a base close to his home, it seems like the end of the road, especially when the commanders want him to move. Lasya is caught in this endless, irreversible conflict, but manages to skate on thin ice, bluntly refusing irresponsible sexual propositions from Romeo (Shakeel Khan) and splendidly adapting herself to the rapidly changing scenario.

The movie was shot at an altitude of 12,000 feet above sea level in Ladakh, bordering China, and in extreme winter conditions in order to create the right mood and look. Shanker Raman's lens freezes the grim, gray scenery, highlighting the cunning of the moneylenders and the opportunism of Romeo. These are sharply contrasted with Lasya's innocence. Acting as a kind of bridge between these two extreme points is Karma, who knows that his idyllic existence is slipping, and yet he can do very little to stop the onslaught of consumerism and its known evils. Denzongpa performs convincingly, stoically facing the predicament and pain of a man lost in the snow.

Seagull Media Prods. in association with Phat Phish Motion Pictures
Director/writer/producer: Shivajee Chandrabhushan
Executive producer/Director of photography: Shanker Raman
Production designers: Siddharth Sirohi. Sonali Singh
Music: John P. Varkey
Costume designer: Loveleena Jain
Editor: Shan Mohammed
Karma: Danny Denzongpa
Lasya: Gauri
Chomo: Skalzang Angchuk Gultuk
Romeo: Shakeel Khan
Running time -- 110 minutes
No MPAA rating