Every time one watches a film on water war, one is reminded of the Indian director, Shekar Kapoor’s Paani -- which he announced with a lot of fanfare at Cannes some years ago. “The next war will be on water, and my work will fictionally explore how the have-nots living in the lower deck of a city have to fight for this precious liquid of life, while the haves on the plush upper deck have an abundance of it.” Of course, true to Kapoor’s movie being Indian, he had planned to insert into his narrative a love story between a poor boy and a rich girl. But, of course.
That Kapoor’s idea is yet to travel from the writing board to the shooting floor is a sad reality, and with the two Indian states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu fighting over the Cauvery river water, Paani appears more and more relevant. But when will it finally emerge?
Interestingly, Ali F Mostfa’s third feature, The Worthy -- which was just screened at the ongoing Dubai International Film Festival -- is about a bitter, bloody conflict over water. In Arabic, Mostafa’s work is a post-Apocalyptic thriller -- a subject that also assumes a high degree of connectedness in the kind of nuclear charged world that we happen to live in. A drama of sheer survival and with a touch of the Middle-eastern flavour, The Worthy, set to open in the region this coming February, is certainly not for the weak hearted. There is one horribly gruesome scene in which the wounded leg of a man is sawed out!
From his feel good From A To B -- where three friends travel from Abu Dhabi to Beirut -- The Worthy is one long jump into a terrifying abyss. Here a group of survivors, led by a truck driver, takes refuge in a ruined building that has the only known source of fresh water. When the driver lets in two strangers, a man and a woman -- all hell breaks loose, and in a scary vicious cat-and-mouse game, the men and women are forced to prove who among them is the worthy of the lot.
What is admirable about the movie is the way Mostafa introduces an element of compassion -- when the driver allows the two strangers to enter his precious abode. But human nature being what it is, the inter-play of greed and oneupmanship creeps in to wreck havoc.
Oneupmanship can also be seen in the Iranian work, Behnam Behzadi’s latest outing, Inversion, a quietly dramatic tale of a Tehran woman, Nilofer -- whose goodness is taken advantage of by her brother. Her view that she is liberated and independent comes crashing down when he tries to force her out of the city where she runs a tailoring outfit and has just found new love.
When Tehran is engulfed in poisonous smog and her old mother falls ills, the doctor suggests that she move out of the city. Nilofer’s two siblings -- her older sister and brother -- cannot accompany their mother to a countryside home with clean air. At least, they feel they cannot, and so they make plans for the old lady to be moved out along with Nilofer. She is not even consulted. This is when Nilofer begins to feel that her life is being run by others, and her idea of a single woman living a life of freedom appears to come crashing down.
Behzadi must be lauded for the kind of control he exerts over the script, making sure that his actors perform with restraint. The film could have so easily slipped into melodrama and mayhem. And, a highly explosive subject of difficult brother-sister relationship turns out to be a great watch. The emotions are underplayed, no howling, no river of tears flowing down the face. A marvellous effort, indeed.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Dubai International Film Festival.)