‘The Orphanage,’ a clumsy mix of fact and fiction in Bollywood-obsessed orphan’s tale

The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. (Supplied)
Updated 03 July 2019

‘The Orphanage,’ a clumsy mix of fact and fiction in Bollywood-obsessed orphan’s tale

CANNES: Director Shahrbanoo Sadat’s second feature, “The Orphanage” (“Parwareshghah”), premiered at the Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight in May, as did her first, “Wolf and Sheep.”

Part of a five-part series, “The Orphanage” falls back on mushy Bollywood songs and exaggerated heroics to push the story of a young orphan in 1980s Soviet-controlled Kabul where the Mujahideen is trying to seize power and reclaim territory.

Sadat freely mixes film fantasy of a melodramatic Indian cinema with a frightening political scenario of a period when the city of Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan were in social and political turmoil.

Living through it all is 15-year-old Qodrat (Quodratollah Qadiri, who was also the lead in “Wolf and Sheep”), who early in the film is seen watching a movie fight with superstar Amitabh Bachchan taking on countless men.

When Qodrat is not inside a cinema, he struggles to earn a living by hawking tickets for Hindi potboilers at a steep premium, which is against the law. Caught by the police, he is sent to a public orphanage with its own peculiar problems of bullying and turf war.


However, a kindhearted administrator (Sediqa Rasuli) intervenes to bring order, and Qodrat starts to have some fun with his roommates, who include his nephew, and a chess wizard (who during a visit to Moscow, arranged for the orphans, beats a computer at the board game).

But life is not all a picnic, with one young inmate being chained and locked up in a mental asylum, and another stealing ammunition from a Russian tank with dire consequences.

Unfortunately, Sadat, who said at Cannes that Bollywood was a huge obsession with Kabul in the 1980s, relies too heavily on the make-believe world of this cinema, and her attempt to mix fact and fiction gets clumsy as the 90-minute film moves toward its finale.

Life at the orphanage, at least during the Soviet occupation, appears a trifle too antiseptic with clean floors, nourishing food and fairytale order. All this changes when the Mujahideen takes over, and the contrast is superficially glaring: Or at least made to look so.

Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra considers role in Arabic films

Updated 03 August 2020

Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra considers role in Arabic films

DUBAI: Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas revealed in an interview with Africa News this week that she would “love to” star in Arabic films.

“I just don’t speak the language,” said Chopra Jonas. “I think that I would love to be a part of the film industry anywhere. I love my job and I would learn a new language if I have to.”

The 38-year-old producer, who has a couple of Hollywood flicks under her belt, said she is working on an unscripted series with her husband, the American singer and songwriter Nick Jonas.

“I am developing a show with my husband which is for Amazon. It is based on the Indian tradition of sangeet (a music-filled pre-marriage ceremony),” she said.


Felt like wearing a saree. So I did...At home. Miss everyone. @nickjonas

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She is also working on a new series for Amazon, produced by the Russo brothers, and a “buddy comedy” with actress Mindy Kaling.

The UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and the former Miss World has been using her social media platforms over the past few months to raise awareness about the coronavirus pandemic.



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Chopra Jonas, who started her career 20 years ago, has hosted an Instagram session with doctors and experts from the World Health Organization who answered frequently asked questions about the virus.