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Monday, January 6, 2014

Trupti Bhoir brings Touring Talkies to Hollywood

Film Flam Flummox


With the deadline for final nomination balloting for the 86th Academy Awards fast approaching, those behind the films in the hunt for a nod have ratcheted up their campaign efforts for one final home stretch surge. While the likelier, higher profile candidates simply step up their game through traditional channels, whether TV interviews, screening Q&A's, red carpet appearances, or the like, leave it to the scrappy underdog hopefuls to be truly creative when it comes to winning over voters--and there arguably has been no event this awards season quite as splashy and distinctive as the two-day experience thrown by the makers of the Marathi language film Touring Talkies this past weekend, January 4 and 5, at The Lot studios in Hollywood.

Produced by and starring Trupti Bhoir, Touring Talkies is a valentine to a long, rich tradition even more unique to the Indian film culture than its famously celebrated use of music: that of traveling truck-and-tent cinemas that would travel the rural areas of the country to bring the masses the magic of movies. But if the specific subject may sound foreign to Western audiences, the tent cinema owners' ongoing struggle to find new ways to attract audiences as the market steadily declines mirrors the plight of motion picture exhibitors in America, as numerous movie houses continue to shutter at a steady rate nationwide. That relevance, paired with an affecting and understated character study of one such tent cinema operator (played with forceful charisma and soul by Bhoir) as she does all she can to keep her business afloat while giving an upstart art film director (Subodh Bhave) his first big break at distribution, makes for the best type of world cinema: a film that at once enriches our knowledge and understanding of cultures and lifestyles in another part of the globe while reinforcing how common and universal the underlying emotional experiences are.


But for this specific event, Bhoir wisely played up that uniquely exotic angle of her subject matter, offering viewers an approximation of the actual touring talkie experience. The screening of the film took place in an actual truck-and-tent set-up in a soundstage at The Lot --and while the film is definitely strong enough to stand on its own, viewing the film in a simulation of its milieu made for that much more of an immersive viewing experience. Following the screening, the experience continued with a Marathi dance number by a young performance troupe.



Whether or not Bhoir's creativity and showmanship results in any nominations remains to be seen, but she certainly is already a winner with anyone who attended any of the four showings this past weekend, for her enthusiasm for and well-paced pride in both her film and cinematic heritage were infectious.


(Special thanks to Trupti Bhoir, Kunal Rajan, and Sam Baskar)

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