Film Reviews – Bread & Belonging; Ghar Ka Pata (Home Address)

Film Reviews – Bread & Belonging; Ghar Ka Pata (Home Address)

Among the wide exciting range of films at the London Indian Film Festival, which concluded over the weekend, ‘Bread & Belonging’ and ‘Ghar Ka Pata’ scream the theme of identity, hence a compendium of reviews.

The two classical documentaries instil a magical optimism of having our roots deeply embedded in our hearts.

Bread & Belonging

Director: Sonia Filinto

Originating from the Portuguese recipes, pāo (bread) – as the locals call it in the coastal paradise of Goa – is still a part of every Goan’s staple diet. Right from kneading the dough and popping it into the ancient clay kilns filled with fiery coal only to get a variety of freshly baked bread, Filinto’s creative piece on my hometown screens the behind the scenes of this withering trade.

Well-known bread makers Wilson and Alzira Gomes project their lives as they struggle to run their ancestral bakery in this day and age. Working on a four-months rotational basis, the couple addresses the issue of their meagre earning that doesn’t make up for the growing bills. With confidence and a heavy heart, Wilson says, “as long as I am there and she is there, we will make bread.”

Along with the pāo through Babuso Simepurushkar, Sonia gives us a glimpse of another dying craft of toddy tapping. With the shortage of coconut toddy, bread making techniques have altered over time to using yeast for fermentation. A nostalgic Marius Fernandes organises a one-day Bread Festival to revive this long-lost custom: “What have we done to pass on the skills to the next generation?”

When the baking gets tough, the bakeries shut down. As I sit here, miles away from home, my ears are longing for the echoing pom-pom of the poder’s (bread man) cycle horn as he goes from door-to-door selling bread. Will the Goans remain sussegado (relaxed) while the traditions slowly fade with every sunset?

Ghar Ka Pata (Home Address)

Director: Madhulika Jalali

The warmth of the hot cup of Kahwa in the snow-capped mountains overlooking the symmetric apple orchards and still lakes is the image that comes to mind of India’s heaven, Kashmir nesting in the Himalayas. The tranquillity in the Valley was distorted by the 1989 socio-political turmoil that forced the Kashmiri Pandits to abandon their homes at gun point.

Much like thousands of Pandits, Pran and Nancy Jalali along with their daughters, Urvashi, Neetu and Madhulika were exiled from their birthplace. After 24 long years of thick and thin, Madhulika has picked up her camera to document her family’s homecoming to where their souls were left behind, to Rainawari in Srinagar. The emotional trauma that the family had experienced couldn’t be concealed well in their teary eyes. “Maybe it was fear or he wanted to avoid something,” explains the filmmaker, as her father refused to show them their ancestral house.

From the age of six, Madhulika had only been carrying unseen stories of her family’s past until she decided to dig deeper with the help of her sisters and close ones in search of remnants of her house in Srinagar to complete this puzzle of her fragmented existence.

Her sisters recall their last few days in Kashmir as the storm was getting closer: “strikes for days, schools burnt down, father sleeping with his rifle for protection”. Urvashi opens up about the night their family fled, “We were shivering with fear. It felt as if someone might kill us at any moment. We left never knowing that we had left for good.”

As the siblings walk through the old lanes of Rainawari they get conversing with fellow Kashmiris around the corner who comforted them with their brotherhood. They reassured them: “We tell our kids that pandits are like us and they lived here too.” Madhulika and Urvashi were finally able to step foot on the plot where their house was burned down.

The vivid collection of photographs, video recordings of happy moments from the past and the rustic nature in which the film is taped, unwinds the tales of every Kashmiri Pandit. It got me thinking: Isn’t it time to welcome those who once sheltered under the same sky?

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Film Reviews – Bread & Belonging; Ghar Ka Pata (Home Address)
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