Sunday, March 05, 2006

on way to chiang mai with Tetsu

My introduction to entertaining Hindi Cinema began in 1971 with Haathi Mere Saathi. My parents, graciously would grant us one movie in a school vacation as a tribute to our endurance throughout the year of drudgery and suffocation at school. The movie that was bestowed with great fanfare would go through stringent scrutiny of my father for its contents. No wonder, movies that came in our lap either had animals or strong social or religious overtones. Haathi Mere Saathi –with Elephant, Janwar aur Insaan –Tiger were those early entertainers.

After almost three decades, in emirates flight on my way to Chiang Mai, elephants arrived in a similar grandeur through Japanese movie ‘shining boy and little randy ‘. Raju– Rajesh Khanna was replaced by Yagira-Tetsu Susumu. Background shifted from south India to Japan and chiang mai – Thailand. Haathi Mere Saathi portrayed fierce loyalty of elephant towards his master while ‘shining boy and little randy’ displayed commitment by innocent child towards elephant.

Tetsu , a teenage boy is raised in animal ranch by his mother Saori (Takako Tokiwa) and his docile stepfather (Katsumi Takahashi). One day, Saori decides to buy her dream animal - an elephant! Tetsu realizes that he has knack of listening low frequency signals that elephants emanate but no one believes him. At school too, he gets increasingly isolated by bullying mates who shun him for his foul animal body smell . All by himself, he turns to his buddy - new elephant and decide to be his teacher. He bargains hard to get permission to go to special school in Thailand for "Mahouts" (elephant trainers). Here at Chiang Mai- Thailand, he was given wild little elephant named Farr to prove his mettle. The training part of the movie is predictable but it does generate an interest in Chiang Mai . When Testsu returns to Japan, movie takes a new twist with unexpected events.

Shunsaku Kawage, director has done amazing job in bringing emotions of human beings and animals on same canvas.Tetsu played by Yuya Yagira evokes tremendous sympathy, so is the character of Tetsu's Mother by Takako Tokiwa. Other characters like Tetsu's Stepfather Katsumi Takahashi, Tetsu's Grandmother Mitsuko Baisho and Emi-his girl friend Yu Aoi fill up the script. This is not a fast paced movie yet it sustains interest due to animated actions of various animals and portryal of rustic japanese family life.

Haathi Mere Saathi showed life sacrifice by an elephant to protect his master. In this movie, no one sacrifices for each other but they do part each other only be reunited again. Script writer has adroitly used the prank played by Tetsu’s mates to reach culmination that numbs the viewers with misty eyes and choked throat.

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