Year:  2021

Director:  Pan Nalin

Rated:  M

Release:  September 14, 2023

Distributor: Rialto

Running time: 110 minutes

Worth: $17.00
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

Bhavin Rabari, Richa Meena, Bhavesh Shrimali, Dipen Raval

… a true sense of magic and wonder …

Samay, the tea seller’s son, spends his days drifting between daydreaming in the schoolroom and selling his father’s tea to thirsty passengers stuck mid journey on a railway platform. When Samay’s father takes the family to the cinema for the first time after condemning all films as filth, everything changes. Samay is awestruck; his entire perspective on his small-town life, changing when he realises how different the world can look when you imagine you’re viewing it through a lens.

Cinematographer Swapnil S. Sonawane and writer/director Pan Nalin (Samsara) work hand in hand to bring a true sense of magic and wonder to every aspect of the production, most notably the remote countryside of Samay’s home. From glass glinting on the railway tracks to his mother’s home cooking, beautifully shot visuals paired with a dreamlike pace prove that even the simplest everyday minutia can become cinematic with just the right inspiration.

Nalin’s use of light is masterful, interplays of colour and shadow engage the senses and result in an entrancing atmosphere as Samay discovers the science behind his beloved movies and the tricks that turn filmstrips into moving pictures.

Nine-year-old Bhavin Rabari is beautifully expressive in the role of Samay. Equally compelling in his stillness as he is in his more emotional outbursts, he carries much of the film on his shoulders and does so effortlessly.

There’s more than a little Cinema Paradiso mixed into the script, right down to the young boy befriending the local projectionist, Fazal, however Nalin’s film is less about the story itself than it is about the telling of stories. While you could argue there’s a sacrifice of plot momentum in favour of visuals, the plot was never the driving force at play here; it’s in Samay’s frustration when his friend Fazal can only offer him the basics of film editing know-how, and his father outlaws all things cinema from their home. “I want to become movies”, Samay announces to his audience, his love for the medium so great that it can only be contained by embodying it, or in Nalin’s case, devoting an entire film to the concept.

India’s official entry to the 2023 Oscars, the film did not end up with the coveted nomination and yet it remains a more devoted love letter to cinema than the Academy Awards ceremony has managed to demonstrate in years.