Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Last Film Show: The Kid’s Perfect Combo: “Northern Indian Food & Marsala Films”

By José Alberto Hermosillo

“Last Film Show” is a vibrant display of India’s untamed spirit combining Northern Indian food and classical cinema brilliantly in one unforgettable children’s adventure. 

“Last Film Show” is an engaging and nostalgic, coming-of-age award-winning Indian drama seen through the eyes of a wondrous kid whose fascination for cinema goes further than school or family well-being. His name is Samay, and he is wonderfully and naturally believable, portrayed by newcomer Bhavin Rabari.

Bhavin Rabari is Samay in "Last Film Show." Photo: Jose Alberto Hermosillo, CAA (Creative Artists Agency), Century City, Los Angeles, CA. www.FestivalinLA ©2022

The film is set in the mid-1980s and unfolds organically and spontaneously, following the path of this young cinema lover who skips school and sneaks into the local movie theater. He finds a way to get into the projectionist’s heart through his stomach with the delicious school meals his mother makes daily.

Bribing the projectionist with Marsala food is not all the trouble the kid gets into; Samay’s adventures inside the movie theater include stealing the film reels from the post office to create a projector and show those fantastic films to other kids without electricity. 

Short of understanding the transitional changes from film to digital projection, the kid witnesses that transition and sees how the projectionist loses his job to a computer-literate geek that can manage the entire movie theater with a laptop. 

Behind the camera is the artistry of renowned Indian director/writer/producer Pan Nalin (“Samsara,” “Angry Indian Goddess”). According to him, his film opens the viewer’s mind to the cultural complexity of other parts of the world.

Director Pan Nalin & actor Bhavin Rabari "Last Film Show." Photo: Jose Alberto Hermosillo, CAA (Creative Artists Agency), Century City, Los Angeles, CA. www.FestivalinLA ©2022

Set in Northern India, near the border with Afghanistan, the movie emphasizes marginalized communities outside the urban areas, children’s labor, survival, unjust social structure, and economics. For instance, people need to learn English to get equal opportunities in education and employment. Paradoxically, the ones who master English leave their communities as soon as possible.

The film contains well-selected clips from classic Indian cinema. Some Bollywood movies became classics, while others are action-packed thrillers to entertain the masses. People in those movies do not look natural, says the director. In his film, he intends to be as realistic as possible by
 exposing people as they are and how they interact in their communities.

Regarding the question I asked in the Q&A about the combination of food and movies, Mr. Nalin answers cleverly, “The way to the people’s heart is through their stomach.” He remembers his childhood by saying that his mother was a great cook. Additionally, Marsala films love food and movies because those elements make people return to their roots of delicious and authentic food based on local, vegan products.

Inspired by the CinemaScope of the 1950s and 60s, talented cinematographer Swapnil S. Sonawane (“Newton,” and “Dhappa”) captures the perfect lighting to enhance the colors - giving that dazzling look to the film. 

The filmmakers looked for picturesque locations using vibrant colors in their palette, multi-chromatic sets, lavish costumes, and shiny jewelry. Everything had to be filmed in front of the camera, not in post-production, to reflect in the film the authenticity of the country.

Director Pan Nalin centered his film on the life of a person he knew from the region. The more complicated part was to bring the producers to start production. If a studio does not back you, he recommends organizing teamwork to get the money to produce the movie with other close friends, doctors, or family members who may pitch in to finish an acceptable production. “If you’re scared, you’re dead,” he said. Because it is hard to make an independent film in India or anywhere, he was lucky to have investors from France and the United States to complete the movie.

Casting the kid was challenging. While looking for a professional child actor, the famous Indian casting director Dilip Shankar (Ang Lee’s “The Life of Pi” and Wes Anderson’s “The Darjeeling Limited”) went to the
Gujarati community. He found a confident kid named Bhavin Rabari, the son of a bus driver. The kid’s family belongs to a tribe outside the “caste system” of other communities. The people there feel proud of their roots, where they came from, and the opportunities they can get to accomplish their dreams. For Bhavin Rabari, the first movie he had ever seen in a cinema theater was his movie.

Last Film Show
Producer Dheer Momaya, Child actor Bhavin Rabari, director Pan Nalin "Last Film Show." Photo: Jose Alberto Hermosillo, CAA (Creative Artists Agency), Century City, Los Angeles, CA. FestivalinLA ©2022

“Last Film Show” is spoken in Gujarati with some English dialogues. The movie has been selected as the Indian entry for Best International Feature Film for the 95th Academy Awards. It has been shortlisted - beating the Netflix mega-production “RRR,” which is also the front-runner to win Best Original Song with “Naatu Naatu.”

The director is surprised that his film is getting plenty of international recognition, and he feels happy to have his movie watched by a broader audience on streaming platforms. Still, he recommends the theatrical experience because that is how he fell in love with the film. 

This crowd-pleasing Indian/French co-production premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, where it won the audience award. Since then, “Last Film Show” has become an international hit.

LAST FILM SHOW (Chhello Show) Official Trailer

“Last Film Show” Indian Child Actor Talks About his Experience Making the Film

Producer Dheer Momaya, Child actor Bhavin Rabari, director Pan Nalin "Last Film Show," and film critic Jose Alberto Hermosillo, CAA (Creative Artists Agency), Century City, Los Angeles, CA. FestivalinLA ©2022

Child actor Bhavin Rabari is Samay in “Last Film Show” and film critic Jose A. Hermosillo, CAA (Creative Artists Agency), Century City, Los Angeles, CA. FestivalinLA ©2022

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