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Issue powerfully treated

THE TAUT narration progresses to a logical conclusion thanks to the appearance of a catalyst in the latter part. And that happens to be a woman! Something that gives legitimacy to the axiom — bring a woman into the picture and there is likely to be trouble! But then that is the story of ``Brothers In Trouble" and it is based on a book (``Return Journey" by Abdullah Hussein), which must have a very strong visual content and narrative for it to translate so effectively on screen.

And despite some stereotyped attitudes which is perhaps natural (it is set in the 60s), it is a tale that bristles with feelings and emotions that are powerful without being maudlin, simple yet complex in its many layers, sympathetic yet hard headed about issues on hand.

The story (screenplay by Robert Buckler) unfolds through the perspective of Amir (Pavan Malhotra), who arrives in England in a crate as an illegal immigrant. He comes expecting heaven, only to find that it can be quite a hellhole. He finds that he has to share a dank apartment with 17 others — all illegal leading the life of fugitives.

Never using the telephone, never calling for any outside help, never looking at anyone in the eye — in order to avoid detection and deportation. But he learns to adjust, live and eat with all of them. He takes up a manual job of sweeping waste material in a factory. And that's all he can do because in places such as this ``they love people like us with no papers. This carries on till the leader of the house, Hussein Shah (Om Puri) takes in a woman with a history of abuse. And she is pregnant. Presumably with Hussein's baby. He allows her to share his room. as a sort of an unofficial wife. To men who relieve their sexual tension watching some Pakistani films with heroines dancing and singing and going to a prostitute who services all of them (``this is cheap and best,'' says one of them) the presence of Mary (Angeline Ball) is disturbing.

Moving from trying to use her for their sexual needs to genuinely liking her, the men help her bring the baby into the world. They don't even call a doctor fearing that this would bring them to the edge of discovery. Once the baby is born, Hussein realises that it is probably not his. He is disillusioned, but the duty of looking after a being sent by God is strong, and all pitch in to help Mary look after the child. Things however are set for a change. Hussein forces Mary to marry his nephew, Irshad (Ahsen Bhatti), so that he can enter England legally. This makes matters ugly, tragically so. Mary, simmering with rage and resentment, torments Hussein by flirting with her `legal husband' while Irshad refuses to take orders from his uncle. A fatal stabbing bursts the bubble and Amir is forced to climb off the fence. Other than the leap in the end, when events move without explanations, the director takes the film along effectively. There are no shocking twists, and no overtly emotional scenes. Pavan Malhotra comes up with a marvellous performance.

Om Puri really does not have much to do, except in the end. The members of the cast present convincing portraits as the film proceeds through the eyes of the protagonist Amir. Though the film is set in the 60s, the visuals don't actually reflect that. It seems quite contemporary. Camera work by Alan Almond is striking in that there is the scenes flow in seamless succession. There is no jar or jerk. The colours of brown, beige and dull yellow give the film its resonant images.

It is only right that films such as ``Brothers In Trouble" need to be extended beyond the confines of sanitised gatherings. It is not a film for theoretical interest or discussion alone! It has something even patrons of mainstream theatre will appreciate. Which is probably why the British Council chose Satyam Theatres to partner it in the Stories R Us. Movies during the Indian Diaspora Film Festival will be screened every weekend from March 8 to 23. And at the first screening on Saturday, March 3, there was an audience no doubt. But surely a better cross-section would have made it a true cinema experience? For instance, where were all the members of the film industry?

CHITRA MAHESH

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