[T]he best thing about Patang, written-directed-edited by Prashant Bhargava, is its nuanced visualisation of Ahmedabad, specifically the old city, during the period of the kite festival (Uttarayan) when it is at its colourful and festive best. Shanker Raman, who superbly captured the landscape and mood of Ladakh in Shivaji Chandrabhushan’s Frozen, weaves a series of evocative images of the crowded part of the city where lanes emerge onto dilapidated Havelis with intricate doorways and crafted windows framing myriad faces peeping out of them.
Patang, actually, is more about imagery than intricate storytelling; and Bhargava adopts an almost documentary-like approach while capturing the sights and sounds of the city, his editing and Raman’s camera complementing each other smoothly, except for a few portions where this cinema verite approach looks a bit forced.
As a narrative, Patang’s storyline does not have anything complex. It’s rather a simple story of a man, Jayesh (played by a sometimes wooden Mukund Shukla) visiting his home after a gap of several years – and with a task in mind. Jayesh is a man who has made it in life after having shifted base to New Delhi, leaving his family home in old Ahmedabad which he now wants to sell off. He is accompanied by his daughter-with-a-hint-of-rebelliousness Priya (a perky Sugandha Garg). But his mother refuses to sign the legal papers, and his nephew, the wedding band-singer Chakku (Nawazudding Siddiqui, in one more effortlessly-superb performance) angrily confronts him. Amidst all this, Jayesh’s widowed sister-in-law and Chakku’s mother (Seema Biswas, a fine portrayal as always) is the almost silent spectator, who seems to know that familial bonds are too strong to be broken by such occasional skirmishes.
The inter-personal relationships of the characters in Patang unfold leisurely, weaved near-seamlessly with the city’s gearing up for the kite festival. Sometimes, it seems Bhargava, who grew up in the USA, is more intent on documenting the city’s feverish celebration of the kite festival than creating more layers to the storyline. There are a few side-strands to the story, such as Priya’s flirtatious relationship with neighbourhood youngster Bobby (Aakash Maherya) and Chakku’s friendship with a few street kids, are interestingly developed, but at the same time, there are unexplained introduction to a few strands that never appear again, for example, Chakku’s young friend and kite shop boy Hamid’s one-scene interaction with his grandmother who refuses to let him into the house in the middle of the night because he has failed to bring in some promised money.
The film, which got a full house at the ongoing 12th Osian’s Cinefan Film Festival on Tuesday, falters when it dives into nostalgia. Bhargava, as someone born and brought up in the West, might have got unintentionally attracted to this pitfall as some of the dialogues mouthed by Jayesh’s character recalling his childhood and times spent in Ahmedabad before he chose to shift out sound almost banal and targeted at the audiences abroad. Luckily for him, he is able to stop just short of exoticizing his subject as the other characters do not fall into that trap.
Bhargava unfolds his storytelling in a leisurely manner, and is able to balance the mix of his narrative and documentation of the kite festival rather well, not stressing too overtly on kites being a metaphor for the wavering human mind as also relationships. Patang succeeds in letting the viewer soak in the atmosphere, but it somewhere falters in making an emotional connect to the extent it could or should have been able to. Perhaps, it would have been a better experience if Bhargava had chosen to tell the story a little more than letting the story unfurl on its own all the way. Patang has its moments, but just so.