Zero Bridge: Film Review

Rough hewn neo-realist drama from India has its sociological fascinations.

Writer-director Tariq Tapa's feature debut, about manages to be effective even though the Indian drama is rough around the edges.

NEW YORK — A rare example of Indian neo-realism to reach our shores, Tariq Tapa’s debut feature Zero Bridge offers a vivid portrayal of hardscrabble life in the city of Srinagar, located in Kashmir. This drama about a troubled teenager and his burgeoning friendship with one of his victims manages to be affecting despite its rough-hewn execution and the filmmaker’s obvious lack of technical expertise.

The central characters are teenage dropout Dilawar (Mohamad Imran Tapa), who was abandoned years earlier by his mothe. Augmenting the meager pay he earns working on his disciplinarian uncle’s construction crew by committing petty thefts, he steals a purse belonging to 28-year-old Bani (Taniya Khan), a former graduate student recently returned from the U.S. Unfortunately, she can’t go back to finish her studies without her now missing passport.

The two subsequently meet when Dilawar happens to show up at the office in which Bani works. Unaware of his role in her misfortune, she gradually takes a shine to the young man, and the two develop a burgeoning friendship. She even begins helping him with his “homework” assignments, unaware that he’s actually doing the work to earn money from his friends who are still in school. Eventually his continued criminal activities cause complications that wreak havoc with their relationship.

Shooting the film on digital video with a cast of non-professionals, writer/director Tapa produces sporadically compelling results. Although individual scenes resonate — Bani has an amusing encounter with American tourists, telling them that his name translates into “terrorist” — the sketchy narrative, uneven performances and frequently dim visuals takes a toll on the overall impact.

Still, the film provides a bracing alternative to the usual Bollywood fare usually imported to our shores. The extensive location footage of its little seen, troubled setting offers a bracing slice of Indian life.

Opened: Wednesday, Feb. 16 (Film Desk)
Production: Artists Public Domain/Joyless Films
Cast: Mohamad Imran Tapa,Taniya Khan, Ali Mohammad Dar
Director/screenwriter: Tariq Tapa
Producers: Hilal Ahmed Langoo, Josee Lajoie
Executive producers: Tyler Brodie, Hunter Gray, Paul Mezey
Editors: Josee Lajoie, Tariq Tapa
Not rated, 96 minutes