Fire In The Mountains REVIEW: A Quiet Masterpiece Starring Vinamrata Rai, Chandan Bisht And Harshita Tiwari

Fire In The Mountains Review: There is a sublime stillness at the heart of this little masterpiece set in the Himalayan hamlet of Munsyari where villagers eke out a living from tourism and shepherding.

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Fire In The Mountains REVIEW: A  Quiet Masterpiece Starring Vinamrata Rai, Chandan Bisht And Harshita Tiwari

There is a sublime stillness, a captivating quietude at the heart of this little masterpiece set in the Himalayan hamlet of Munsyari where villagers eke  out a living from tourism and  shepherding. Women can be seen carrying gigantic bundles of  rolled-up grass as they  make their Sisyphean way up the hill to their modest homes. Only to  return the  next day.And the next…

But  hang on. This is no touristic porn. Our protagonist  Chandra has  no  time here to gaze at the  mountains and the meadows  that stretch endlessly. As played by the relatively unknown actress  Vinamrata Rai, Chandra has an extraordinarily simple face that conveys an ocean  of  emotions buried  too deep for tears.

This is  not a woman who wastes time  in feeling sorry for herself. There  is  too much to do  .There is  a semi-wastrel of  a husband  Dharam( well played by  Chandan Bisht),  two  demanding  children : a daughter who is growing into a rebellious teenager with a boyfriend and 62,000 followers  for her tik-tok  videos where she dances  to  cheap pop number, and a son who after an accident refuses to walk. There  is a   a sister-in-law who  has become a  permanent  guest after  her husband’s death.

Chandra shoulders  all the above  burdens with a  stoicism that  scoffs at  sentimentality. No Mother India  act here. Just the  will to get from one  day to the next. Writer-director Ajitpal  Singh captures the  strenuous rhythms of  the mundane  in   a language that is  at once simple lucid and  captivating. There is  no effort to impress us  with a  sweeping panoramic view of  the mountains. In effect Dominique Collins’ extraordinary cinematography  captures  the ordinary lives as they are ,  the picturesque location  is a  majestic but  mute spectator .

The  film is exceptional in its lack of affectations.  Writer director Ajitpal Singh opts for a minimalist  approach  to his  ground-level  characters living in the  mountains. In the  central part Vinamrata Rai  gives one of the most artless and arresting  performances  I’ve seen  by a leading lady in recent times.She  is simply all there, creating  a space  for her character  and  her family with  diligent  dedication.

I  wasn’t very convinced  by Chandra’s  outburst  against patriarchal  rutualism  at  the  end. Chandra  didn’t  strike me as a woman who would waste time creating  a  scene. But then,  she is  also  capable of surprising  flashes  of protest. She  everywoman and yet  her own person.She encapsules  the  eternal  enigma of the Great Indian Woman that  this film is  not keen to explore.  There is too much to do in so little time.

Don’t miss this  masterpiece. Somebody referred to it  as  a “festival  film”.   It is like calling The White  Tiger a film about wildlife. Hats  off  to JAR  pictures for  producing this sparkling gem of a  film.  It is a life-enriching  experience. 


 


Image source: Instagram/fireinthemountains_film, youtube/indianfilmfestival