The Kite: Film Review

Great cast gives wings to this colorful but visually over-indulgent feature debut.

Prashant Bhargava’s feature debut about a complicated family is an intriguing small story that takes place over two days of a city's major kite festival.

BERLIN – (Forum) With its fast, fragmented photography of India’s city streets and rooftops, brightly colored palette and funky Indo-electronic score, reminiscent of The Kite Runner and Slumdog Millionaire, Prashant Bhargava’s feature debut The Kite follows in the tradition of auteur cinema. It’s an intriguing and small story about a complicated family that takes place over two days.

It also features Indian star Seema Biswas (Water, The Warrior) to draw in audiences at home and among the Indian communities abroad.

Bhargava, who was born in Chicago of East Indian descent, is a graphic artist, and it shows. The trendy visuals are the film’s true main character. There’s a lot of swirling and soaring – before we even get to the kites. Nevertheless the fine acting keeps the various threads from tangling and grounds Shanker Raman’s relentless camera movement.

Successful businessman Jayesh (Mukund Shukla) and his teenage daughter Priya return to his native city of Ahmedabad in Western India from Delhi after a five-year absence. Their trip coincides with Utturayan, the country’s largest kite festival, during which the entire city takes to the rooftops.

Jayesh has plans for his mother, sister-in-law Sudha (Seema Biswas) and nephew Chakka (Nawazussin Siddiqui) – namely, to move them out of the family home and into a condo across town – which they’re not too keen about. Least of all Chakka, a 20-something slacker who blames his uncle for his father’s drinking and untimely death.

At the same time, the pretty, provocative Priya (Sugandha Garg) strikes up a romance with a handsome young shop clerk (Aakash Maherya). Hamid (Hamid Shaikh), a young boy who lives more on the streets than with his cold-hearted grandmother, gets in trouble for losing a big kite delivery for his boss.

In constant movement and almost always in close-up, the camera twirls around the actors, often capturing only fragments of their faces. Raman is constantly pulling in and out of focus, or letting the actors move in and out of the frame. The rest of the time the filmmakers shoot the thousands of kites in the sky, which soar in various directions and wrap around each other like the story’s subplots.

So much of this feels self-indulgent – we’d get the connection between the kites and the stories even with less movement – but luckily he and Bhargava know when to stop and catch the right, fleeting expressions and gestures. There’s a gentleness in this snapshot of a family and all its baggage that seems almost effortless. The filmmakers also convey the excitement of a city celebration very nicely.

Most of all, The Kite belongs to the actors. The masterful Biswas has a light touch even in moments of great pain. Garg navigates between Priya’s sweetness and growing seductive powers very nicely, Siddiqui is all swagger as a wannabe big fish in a tiny pond. The young Shaikh is so natural he seems not to notice the camera is there.

Venue: Berlin International Film Festival (Forum)
Production company: Khushi Films
Cast: Seema Biswas, Nawazussin Siddiqui, Sugandha Garg, Mukund Shukla, Aakash Maherya, Hamid Shaikh, Pannaben Soni
Director/screenwriter: Prashant Bhargava
Producer: Jaideep Punjabi
Director of photography: Shanker Raman
Production designer: Meera Lakhia
Music: Mario Grigorov
Costume designer: Sujata Sharma
Editor: Prashant Bhargava
Sales company: Media Luna New Films
No rating, 105 minutes