by Nick Kotecki Rasmalai Dreams (62 minutes, Hindi with English subtitles, 2009), takes moviegoers into the headspace of contemporary Indian culture. It is a documentary, parody and travelogue rolled into an hour long feature which will make you scratch your head and laugh.
Shot onsite in India, the film follows the auditions of various performers trying to make it big in the Bollywood movie scene. Each audition was performed in front of a green screen. In the movie a different backdrop is projected for each individual. Most often, the Indian landscape is used: choked intersections of taxicabs and bicycles, people sunning and splashing on the beach, bustling marketplaces and food stands.
Rasmalai Dreams was filmed entirely in 3D, so you’ll need a pair of blue and red 3D glasses in order to experience the full effect. Luckily, it’s worth it – the performers literally jump out at you. When they dance, they dance on mountaintops or weaving in and out of crowds. When they cry or shout, they do so at the feet of countrymen or street cows. Imagine American Idol without the brash judges and drab interior décor. Replace these with a careful director with an intimate view and array of Indian cityscapes, vibrant with pastels.
The film works much like a pop-up book. The backdrops serve to give context and meaning to each audition, displaying the cultural climate in which the performer’s talents were nurtured. They show a dynamic blend of Western, Indian, and world culture. The performers embody the action of the background. A hairless body builder, dressed in bright orange shorts, flexes his muscles for the camera. A man lectures, spews the relevance of Michael Jackson or “Michael Baba” to India. The performers are numerous, ranging from heartfelt, to deadly serious, to unintentionally hilarious. Look for the director, Xav Leplae, to make brief appearances in the film as well. These candid moments are especially rewarding. You’ll have to find them for yourself though – no spoilers here.
Rasmalai Dreams will be showing at this year’s Milwaukee Film Festival. Showtimes are Sat Sept 25 at 7:45PM, Oriental Theatre and Fri Oct 1 at 9:45PM, North Shore Theatre The festival itself will take place from September 23 to October 3. Films from around the world will be shown on three different screens: the Landmark Oriental Theatre on Milwaukee’s East Side, the Marcus North Shore Cinema in Mequon, and the Marcus Ridge Theatre in New Berlin. Prices for ticket packages and movie show times can be found on the Milwaukee Film Festival website: milwaukee-film.com. See ad on back page.
Xav Leplae is the owner of Riverwest Film and Video, 824 E. Center St. Rasmalai Dreams is sponsored in the Milwaukee Film Festival by the Riverwest Currents.