and Opium (DOODH AUR APHEEM)
MILK AND OPIUM, filmmaker Joel Palombo escorts us to a set right out of
the Arabian Nights. Starting with a small village in the desert of norththwest
India, in the state of Rajasthan, outside the ancient carved sandstone
walled Fort surrounding the city of Jaisalmer. (And what a difference
film makes over dv ! You can almost smell the air and taste the food.)
Our hero here is a 14 year old Sufi boy named Swaroop. ( Swaroop Khan, who plays a version of himself, and wins our hearts in the process.) He wants to be a Manganyar singer like his uncle (Nizam Khan). Uncle Nizam reluctantly agrees to take him on one of his minstrel journeys and we get to tag along. But this is no Disney adventure. They walk, through the desert, on foot, to a village where Nizans two musician friends live . (Mohamad Khan, a real-life notable Manganyar vocalist and Manjoor Khan,recognized as one of the most outstanding Manganyar drummers.) Here, Swaroop is told to wait with the ancient grampa while the big guys smoke pot and chew some opium and plan their other trip. Not surprisingly, details get lost in the planning, but as the sun rises, they start off. There is a powerful lot of walking and less water-drinking and eating than what Americans would expect on such a trek. And this is just the first leg of a very loooong journey. One can not possibly guess where it will lead. Such musing make up a large part of the wonder and delight of this film. It is so different. While Palombo sticks to the three act form, the layers of sights, sounds and wanderings, even when tedious, serve this unusual subject.
Also featured is an Indian guitarist of great report, Deepak Castelino, who helped compose part of the score and some of the end vocals.
One of the exhilarating parts of attending a film festival is getting up close and personal with so many of the filmmakers. Joel Palombo lives in New Delhi and teaches high school fine art classes several months of the year. Naturally, as an artist, he has a need to express his view on what life reveals to him. He also has the need to challenge himself as an artist. He recalls that for some time he had an itch to make a film, but he wasnt sure about what. One day, he attended an Indian folk-music concert in Delhi and was so impressed by some of the talent, he rushed backstage to talk them into being in a film he hadnt yet written. And that is how Joel Palombo became a filmmaker. Of course, that begs the question: whats up for this year summer vacation?