Zaid, a 11-year-old Ahmedabad boy, is the cloud that they sing about in The Sound Of Music. The lad cannot be caught or be pinned down, especially in the month of January when the whole city sinks into the fervour of Uttarayana, the festival of kite-flying. That is when little Zaid and his friends, who look like regular school-goers, metamorphose into professional kite-pilots.
Filmmaker Hardik Mehta and his crew followed Zaid for six days over a period of two years to make a 30-minute documentary film, Amdavad Ma Famous (Famous In Ahmedabad), a witty and technically brilliant work that captures the spirit of an Indian small-town, among other delightful things.
The film has great visuals – the kind you rarely find in Indian documentary films that are often sombre works by filmmakers reluctant to experiment with the form or be funny. The film is slickly edited, further enriched by Manoj Goswami’s sound design and an aptly cheerful background score composed by Alokananda Dasgupta.
The film crew stalks Zaid, who is an informal leader of his gang, sometimes secretly, but mostly with his nod. And, it sure is not an easy task, for the kids are perennially on the move – darting down the streets behind falling kites, and clambering up the minars of a nearby mosque to use its sprawling terrace as a kite-flying pad. The kids seem immersed in their kite business, absolutely unconcerned by the presence of the camera and boom-box wielding adults. They argue among each other on the techniques of flying, spy on the strict security guard of the mosque who doesn’t entertain the kite-flying squad, and roam the streets of Ahmedabad bargaining with spool sellers. Mehta, somehow, makes his subjects feel relaxed, and the result is marvellous.
The film won the National Award for the best non-feature film in 2015, and was screened at numerous international film festivals across the world. Mehta’s film isn’t just about the kids’ obsession with kite-flying. It humorously explores the inherent cherubic innocence in human beings. In space-crammed Ahmedabad, where there is hardly a playground for these children of lower middle-class households, they make use of the rooftops and alleys to meet, play and live an energetic childhood. The final portion of the film has visuals of a million lanterns rising from Ahmedabad’s rooftops. There is a spiritual touch to this visual – like a whole community of humans sending prayers to the sky, in unison.
Hardik Mehta, who worked as an assistant director in Bollywood films such as Road Movie, Mausam, Lootera and Queen, is also the co-writer of Vikramaditya Motwane’s Trapped. Last week, his short film, The Affair, presented by Drishyam Films, was released on YouTube to splendid reviews.
Watch the trailer of Amdavad Ma Famous here: