Eastern Country Comes To Nashville

Eastern Country Comes to Nashville in Milk and Opium, an independent film about a changing world. A thirteen-year old traditional musician makes his way from his village to India's capital, New Delhi. Swaroop travels with his opium addicted Uncle Nizam, and Nizam's musician friends. This unusual musical road movie moves from rural India to a new modern nation. In a suburb of New Delhi, complete with shopping malls and multinationals, the boy meets an Indian cowboy, played by Deepak Castelino. Castelino plays extraordinary country western music with a twist: all of the lyrics are about India, rather than Texas or Tennessee. Swaroop and Deepak create an unlikely fusion piece that magically works with its country eastern twang and Sufi influences.

Swaroop, his Uncle Nizam, and the other musicians in Milk and Opium are Manganyar musicians from the desert state of Rajasthan. The Manganyars are unusual because they are Muslim, but traditionally sing Hindu spiritual songs for the court. The music they play among themselves is reminiscent of gypsy music. You can imagine the connection to Flamenco with the rhythmic castanets and lively singing.

Milk and Opium is a film about a changing world shown through the eyes of a young musician. The contrast between traditional culture in India and a growing westernized culture are extremely pronounced. The viewer is confronted with a unique, almost mesmerizing look at rural India that is juxtaposed with a rapidly modernizing urban India.

The director of the film, Joel Palombo also has an unusual story. Originally from Detroit, Palombo has been living and teaching art in New Delhi for the last eight years. To make the film, he set out with a Tibetan friend during a summer break from his teaching job. He recalls, "There was something remarkable about the diversity of our group -- a guy from Detroit, a Tibetan, musicians from remote villages, and a technical team from all over India met to work on a project in the desert. We wanted to tell the story of our changing world. The thought of such a diverse group working on the film really means something to me". Palombo has seen great changes in Delhi. "Visually the city is very different. When I first came to India 8 years ago, you hardly saw an Indian woman wearing western clothes, you never saw imported cars, and there were no malls. That has all changed." He fears that with the westernization of India, the country will lose much of its traditional culture.

As Swaroop curiously looks at the newly built malls of greater Delhi, he says to himself "This is like another country. This isn't India". Poignant, funny, and down right surreal, Milk and Opium shows the impact the new economy is having on traditional India and challenges the viewer to ponder what the future will bring. Milk and Opium will play in Nashville, Tennessee at the Nashville Film Festival on April 20th and 21st.