'Patang' skillfully integrates documentary footage with dramatic reenactments.
“Patang” is set in the Indian city of Ahmedabad during its huge annual kite festival. For a single day, sent aloft from streets and rooftops, more than a million colorful kites whip through the air. Down on the ground are millions of tales to be told. Director Prashant Bhargava tells the story of a single extended family.
Bhargava was born and raised in Chicago but spent years in Ahmedabad filming the life there in preparation for this movie, which utilizes both professional actors and nonactors and wonderfully integrates documentary footage with dramatic enactments. He allows us to discover these people in mostly glancing, sidelong moments, as if he were capturing their lives on the sly. It’s rare for a filmmaker to integrate with such seamlessness the staged and the “caught.”
It takes a while to sort out the family relationships, but that sorting out is part of the film’s dizzying impact. The India of this movie is bigger than any personal drama no matter how complex. (This is the third film this year to feature India in a big way, along with “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and “Trishna.” More please.)
Of the various dramas, the ones that most take hold are the stories involving Jayesh (Mukund Shukla), an affluent uncle from Delhi who has come to his boyhood home of Ahmedabad after many years delay, and his daughter, Priya (Sugandha Garg), who has a flirty fling with a local boy, Bobby (Aakash Maherya). He falls in love with this citified modern girl, and not the other way around. It’s a telling reversal of expectation.
Above all, literally, are the kites. When a character says, “You fly these kites and feel the joy,” we know just what he means. Grade: A- (Unrated.)