'Frozen': Shivajee Chandrabhushan's Debut Film Wins the National Award
by Elizabeth Menon
Shivajee Chandrabhushan chosen as the Nation's Best Newcomer Director for his debut film, ‘Frozen’!
It is a story told from a young girl's perspective – a film that makes the audience transfixed to their seats till after all the credits at the end of the film! Perhaps, it’s the brilliance of the black and white landscape, or more so the directorial restraint throughout the film in bringing the conflict between individuals and society that is frozen in time and place. 'Frozen' tells the story of an ageing father 'Karma' (Danny Dezongpa), his teenaged daughter 'Lasya' (Gaury) and her 'little brother' Chomo (Angchuk); the story is told through the eyes of Lasya, a childish and impulsive young girl who imagines to have a little brother as her companion and sounding board!
The story takes place in Ladakh, Indian side of Jammu-Kashmir border, 15000 feet above sea level in freezing conditions at 30 degree Celsius. Lasya grows up watching her father making apricot jam and selling his produce at the local market place. Unfortunately he is unable to compete with the others in the trade who use machines to make jam and lands in financial ruin, having to borrow from unscrupulous moneylenders. Their simple lives are shattered by the arrival of the Army that protects the frontier who decide to set up a camp very close to their house. Karma is asked to take his children and leave his ancestral home which almost brings him to a breaking point. The Army officer almost apologizes to Karma by telling him that he is only doing his duty. Here, Chandrabhusan shows a very sympathetic side of the Army officer.
Amidst all this, Lasya is blossoming into a very attractive woman and meets a young local boy, 'Romeo', played by Shakeel Khan. But she is quite capable of looking after herself, in spite of appearing very childish and naive at times! Karma however is oblivious to his daughter growing up till one of the moneylenders tells him that he is willing to forget the money in exchange for her! The turmoil of the financial ruin, worrying about his daughter's safety and having to move out of his safe haven play havoc on the ageing Karma and all these emotions are shown on Karma's most expressive face. Danny Denzongpa's face is like the most beautiful oil painting with multitude of painful expressions -- the cinematographer, Shanked Raman deserves most of the credit! Unexpected disaster sets in and Lasya runs away to escape from all this, only to be stopped by a fencing of barbed wire, and a display of the most wonderful mix of colours waiting on the other side!
The title 'Frozen' is quite apt for this film as it reflects the terrain and the landscape. It also shows the slow pace and the almost frozen state of mind of the characters in this film -- even the traditional festival of chimes and magic wheels appear frozen in time. Chandrabhusan brings a different Ladakh, stripped off its colour, to show what it looks like in winter, the blue sky and the black shadow thrown in by the sun, the barren trees and the brilliantly white snow. The rawness and harshness in monochrome bring out the gloomy warmth which is frozen in time and perhaps, this may have something to do with Lasya's hallucination of having a little brother to brighten up her days.
The cinematography is at its best and one doesn't even miss the colour. The Cinematgrapher Shankar Raman's brilliance is shown through out the film and that beautiful ball of a dog covered in snow will be in the heart of all those who saw the film.I wouldn't be surprised if 'Black and white films' make a come back! Ice hockey is shown in this film, perhaps for the first time in an Indian film. Music by John P Varkey from Kerala (God's own country) brings warmth to the frozen landscape. It's Danny Denzongpa's 150th film and he has given his best performance. Gouri in her debut appearance has shown great acting ability and Angchuk as the little boy is a delight to watch.
Finally, Lasya looking through the barbed wire and seeing the landscape in colour at a distance show hope of brightness and colour in her life, and the audience realizes that this beautiful young girl is moving on to a bright future! It is not till the end of the film that most of the audience understood that the little boy is not real and perhaps the realization that there may be an imaginary companion inside of all of us, or could use one sometime in our lives! By showing the images of black and white through out the film and finally the brilliant yellow-golden colour outside the barbed wire, the director has succeeded in bringing out the essence of this film -- the rawness and harshness of life giving way to change and a better life.
Shivajee Chandrabhusan in his debut film shows how a simple story from Ladakh can be made into a powerful mesmerizing film; but then what else can one expect from someone who is a graduate in Sociology and Law and who has had training in Photography and mountaineering! A must for all those who love cinema in its true form!