Groomed for Change

Filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam witness and are a part of a wedding for their soon-to-be-released,When Hari Got Married

Written by Pallavi Pundir | Published:August 15, 2013 1:28 am

In the bustling,touristy town of Dharamsala,lives Hari,a happy-go-lucky taxi driver who ferries local Tibetans,foreigners and nuns around the hill station. However,even as business is as usual,the daily humdrum of his life is going to change. Hari is getting married. “It’s been two years since our marriage got fixed. In two years,we haven’t met even once,” says Hari,30,as the camera adjusts uncomfortably to show the consternation on his face as he drives his taxi.

The film,When c,captures his interactions with the people around him,especially with Suman,his bride-to-be. Hari’s troubles reflect a rarely-seen perspective of an Indian wedding in popular culture — a groom’s apprehensions. Switching from boyish indifference (“One falls in love even with a rock if you talk to it everyday”) to mature concern (“She has to leave everything to live with a stranger”) towards Suman,Hari walks a tight rope. Save the two-second glimpse of her months ago,he has never met or seen her. Yet,their growing affection is evident from the numerous phone calls between them.

The film is shot by Dharamsala-based filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam and co-produced by ITVS International and White Crane Films. Sarin and Sonam are an Indian-Tibetan independent filmmaking team known for films such as The Shadow Circus: The CIA in Tibet (1998) and The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet’s Struggle for Freedom (2009).

When Hari Got Married has been doing rounds of international film festivals since last year,with appearances at Films from the South Festival in Oslo and Amsterdam’s prestigious IDFA. At home,the film was screened at India International Film Festival in Goa and Dharamsala Film Festival last year,and will finally release on August 30,as a part of PVR Director’s Rare.

“Most people have a preconceived idea about arranged marriages,either that it is good or bad. In our film,we don’t make a judgment. We wanted to show it as it happens in rural India,and how even in traditional situations,changes are taking place,” says Sarin.

The film tells Hari’s story with an interesting intimacy,probably because the two filmmakers have known the area for about 18 years and have known Hari since he was 16. “Hari and his family live in a village right behind our home. Unlike most people in the area,he’s candid and very open,” says Sarin,“I’m almost like an extended family to them. We received the wedding invitation two years in advance and thought that it might make a good subject for a film. When Hari told us he was talking to the girl every day on the mobile phone,we decided to start filming.”

In tandem with Hari,the 175-minute documentary — shot spontaneously within three weeks — also looks at the changes that have taken place in the village and its people. In an age of gadgets and electronic communication,and modern ideas of matrimony,one sees age-old traditions and rites coming alive.

“We know how difficult it is for an indie film,and that too,a documentary,to get a theatrical release in India but when the opportunity came to show it as part of PVR Director’s Rare series,we decided to give it a shot. Our hope is to reach out to audiences who might otherwise not have an opportunity to watch the film,” says Sarin.

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