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Film Festival Opens the Borders to India

October 08, 1992|MARK CHALON SMITH | Mark Chalon Smith is a free-lancer who regularly writes about film for The Times Orange County Edition.

What do we think of when we think of India? Hot, torpid air filled with the scent of curry? Beautiful, sloe-eyed women in draping gowns? Hunger, Buddhism and the Taj Mahal?

When we think of India, we usually think of the obvious, of cliches. The "Festival of Films From India" is designed to broaden our scope. Sponsored by EKTA (which describes itself as a "nonprofit, nonpartisan group for progressive change in South Asia"), the series represents one of the most comprehensive programs on the modern Indian cinema to come to Southern California in some time.

Most of the 11 movies are slated for Los Angeles, but UC Irvine will screen Satyajit Ray's "Devi" ("The Goddess") and Mira Nair's "Salaam Bombay!" Saturday at the Student Center Crystal Cove Auditorium.

"Devi," released in 1960 shortly after Ray's celebrated "Apu" trilogy, is a story about the power of religion and folk superstition. In "Devi," an aging Brahmin believes, with tragic consequences, that his daughter-in-law is a reincarnation of the goddess Kali.

"Salaam Bombay!" (1988) recounts the often-painful experiences of a 10-year-old boy who journeys to Bombay to make a little money for his mother. He encounters drugs, criminals and all the other hazards and temptations of the streets.

On Sunday, Aribam Syam Sharma's "Ishanou" ("The Chosen One") screens at 2:30 p.m. in the USC's Bovard Auditorium. The 1990 film focuses on a young wife whose spiritual devotion approaches fanaticism.

Also in Bovard on Sunday, at 4:30 p.m., Sivaprasad's "Vembanad" ("A Lake in Central Kerala") will be shown. The mildly erotic movie, which was released in 1990, unfolds after a middle-aged fisherman rescues a drowning teen-age girl.

On Thursday, Oct. 15, "Satyajit Ray, a Documentary" is scheduled for UCLA's Ackerman Grand Ballroom. Shyam Benegal's 1985 film on India's greatest filmmaker is offered at 7 p.m.

The series heads back to USC on Saturday, Oct. 17, when Ray's "Ganushatru" (Enemy of the People) screens at 4:30 p.m. at Norris Auditorium. The 1989 movie is based on Ibsen's play about a crusading doctor's efforts to warn villagers of their contaminated water supply.

At 7 p.m. that same night in Norris, Tapan Sinha's "Ek Doctor Ki Maut" ("The Death of a Doctor") will be presented. The 1990 film also borrows from Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People" by centering on a doctor who becomes a pariah after discovering a vaccine for leprosy.

On Sunday, Oct. 18, "Ek Din Achanak" ("Suddenly One Day") is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Norris. Mrinal Sen's 1988 movie revolves around the disappearance of a professor and the effects it has on his family.

Shaji N. Karun's "Piravi" ("The Birth") will screen at UCLA's Ackerman Grand Ballroom on Monday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. The film, released in 1988, begins with the arrest of an engineering student on sedition charges. His relatives face frustration and fear as they try to determine what has become of him.

On Saturday, Oct. 24, Manirathnam's "Anjali" will be presented at USC's Norris Auditorium. This 1990 film is about a mentally retarded girl who is first rejected, but then accepted, by her family.

The series concludes on Sunday, Oct. 25, at 7 p.m. in Norris with Amol Palekar's "Thodasa Roomani Ho Jayen" ("Let There Be a Wee Bit of Romance"). The 1990 movie focuses on a lonely woman who finds romance when a stranger breezes into town.

Admission for each film is $4.50 (general) and $2.75 (students). EKTA notes that the money raised will "support projects that promote the cause of basic education for poor and underprivileged children in South Asia."

What: Satyajit Ray's "Devi" and Mira Nair's "Salaam Bombay!"

When: Saturday, Oct. 10, 4:30 p.m. for "Devi" and 7 p.m. for "Salaam Bombay!"

Where: UC Irvine's Student Center Crystal Cove Auditorium.

Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to Jamboree Road and head south. Go east on Campus Drive and take Bridge Road into the campus.

Wherewithal: $2.75 and $4.50.

Where to call: (714) 559-6211 or (714) 856-0220.

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