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A life in exile

RANA SIDDIQUI

Well-known documentary makers Ritu Sarin and Tensing Sonam have come up with their first feature film, "Dreaming Lhasa".



THE DEBUT A still from the film "Dreaming Lhasa".

They say that you can't tell a book from a film. But what about a tale that is found in books, in photographs and yet the films that are made on it aren't true to the real tale? It hurts those who know what's true in the tale and what is being projected. And hence, famous documentary maker husband and wife duo Ritu Sarin and Tensing Sonam decided to produce their first feature film on the subject close to their hearts, Tibet.

This 90-minutes film "Dreaming Lhasa" having many firsts to its credit from actors to music, will be screened this Saturday at Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre at 7 p.m. while the cinema release comes next Friday with evening shows at PVR Spice in Noida.

The film, symbolising the search for roots, revolves around the character of a Tibetan filmmaker Karma. She goes from New York to Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama's headquarters in northern India to make a documentary on former political prisoners who have escaped from Tibet. Here she meets and interviews Dhondup, a mysterious monk who has just escaped from Tibet. In her, Dhondup confides that he is actually in India to fulfil his dying mother's last wish to deliver a charm box to a long-missing resistance fighter. While Karma herself wants to reconnect with her roots in India.

In the film that was shot in Dharamsala, Majnu Ka Teela in Delhi, Jaipur, Dehra Dun and some Tibetan camps within 34 days, Tenzin Chokyi, a-30-year-old Tibetan banker who grew up in the U.S., plays Karma. Tenzin has no prior acting experience unlike Kathmandu-based Jhampa Kalsang, who plays Dhondup. Jhampa is a Tibetan who had spent all his life in India and Nepal.

Jhampa had earlier played a role in a feature film, "Windhorse". Sonam has penned the script of the film while Ritu has produced it.

Digital music

The film that is a result of a two-week workshop with Barry John and a month's rehearsals has some Indian music, dubbed reggae also. Andy Spence, a London-based electronic artist/ producer, and Techung, a Tibetan musician based in California, have together scored the music for the film. For the first time, super-16 digitalised music is blown up to a format of 35 which makes the film "technically global", as Ritu Sarin puts it.

"It is unfortunate that Dharamsala is projected only as a religious haunt with restrictions on personal choices in life. There, young monks enjoy reggae music, organise and attend parties. We have shown it as it is. We haven't given it an exotic touch. The film explains how it feels to be a Tibetan in exile," says Sarin.

The film, which has travelled to various film festivals in Spain, the U.S., Singapore and Brazil will go to Thailand and Canada this February.

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