Film Review: ‘Bitter Chestnut’ explores a contemporary quandary

The story is set after Operation Blue Star. (Supplied)
Updated 07 October 2019

Film Review: ‘Bitter Chestnut’ explores a contemporary quandary

CHENNAI: It can be fascinating when a filmmaker surprises us by transcending genres. While Indian Director Gurvinder Singh told us in his debut 2011 feature “Alms for a Blind Horse” (which premiered at Venice) about the struggles of a village against land grabs and ruthless industrialization, his second outing in 2015, “The Fourth Direction,” took Cannes by storm.

The story is set after Operation Blue Star (when the Indian military stormed the Golden Temple in Amritsar to flush out militants), and examines the dilemma of a people caught between the excesses of government forces and rebels.

In his latest foray into cinema, “Bitter Chestnut” (“Khanaur”), which had its world premiere at the 24th Busan International Film Festival, Singh completely changes track. This time, he takes us to the tranquil environs of the Himalayas, to a small but idyllic town called Bir. There, 17-year-old Kishan (Kishan Katwal) works in a little cafe run by an elderly woman from Kerala, played by Monisha Mukundan.

She, like some others, have left the hustle and bustle of city life for peace and quiet. The tourists who stop by at Bir (a center for paragliding) are her only source of diversion, maybe distraction. Her motherly instincts are etched sharply when we see her relationship with Kishan, who has left behind his family in Baragraan, many miles away. 

Kishan is torn between his desire to explore new frontiers, a fresh lifestyle with a job in the city, and the demand of his family to take up its traditional profession of carpentry. He cannot decide, his dreams to move away clashing with his own insecurities of a life he has no clue about.

He watches how guests at the cafe seem distraught and disgruntled with the modern, urban existence. He contrasts this with his own life, amidst a people who have learnt to live with a multitude of cultures and in perfect harmony with nature. 

In 100 minutes, Singh explores a giant of an idea — the conflict between tradition and modernism — by using non-professionals. Katwal actually works in the cafe, his parents are his own, and Mukundan lives in Bir. It could not have been easy to direct such a group to narrate a story that tugs at your heart.

For all those used to Hollywood cinema’s pace, Singh’s latest outing may seem stretched and ponderous, but “Bitter Chestnut” hides a spirited message. 


Indian label Two Point Two makes catwalk debut at LFW

Founder of Two Point Two Anvita Sharma presented her first catwalk show outside of India this week. (Supplied)
Updated 17 February 2020

Indian label Two Point Two makes catwalk debut at LFW

LONDON: “Two Point Two is a genderless, anti-conformist, all-inclusive brand. We don’t cater to any particular gender or any particular size,” declared designer Anvita Sharma at London Fashion Week’s Fashion Scout.

Some might say packing all that into a dress is a pretty big challenge, but this is something she clearly believes in.

This is Two Point Two’s first runway show outside India. (Supplied)

“We believe in diversity, independence and confidence and we support individuals who want to be as loud or mellow as possible. So we have a huge variety of colors, silhouettes and details,” she said.

Sharma, who studied at Istituto Marangoni in Milan and Paris, is a rising talent. Last year she won the third edition of “Scouting for India,” a global project developed by Vogue Talents in collaboration with FAD International Academy and FAD Institute of Luxury Fashion & Style.

The collection used wool and wool felt, shot cotton and wool and some Giza cottons for the shirts and dresses. (Supplied)

Her win included the opportunity to showcase her Spring/Summer 2020 collection at the Palazzo Cusani within the exhibition celebrating Vogue Talent’s 10th anniversary during Milan Fashion Week.

This week, amid the hectic backstage preparations for her Fashion Scout showing, she found the time to talk to Arab News, running us through her color palette and fabrics.

“We have a mix of neutrals and pastels as well as vibrant reds. Some shades are often categorized as either feminine or masculine, so we want to amalgamate both of them to say that colors are not supposed to be associated with any particular gender, color or race,” she explained.

The color palette was a mix of neutrals and pastels as well as vibrant reds. (Supplied)

“For fabrics, we have mostly used wool and wool felt, shot cotton and wool and some Giza cottons for the shirts and dresses. We have also done a lot of hand embroidery. One coat took four weeks to hand embroider,” she said.

The production for Two Point Two is based in Delhi.

For her next collection, Sharma is going to work with craft clusters of Indian women weavers based in the mountain city of Kullu, capital of the Kullu district in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.

She has a track record of being supportive of hand crafts — evident in her previous collections.

The production for Two Point Two is based in Delhi. (Supplied)

“Last season, we did handwoven fabrics of cotton and silk from another region in India. Now Two Point Two wants to bring different, dying crafts of India to an international audience,” she explained.

Commenting on her increasingly high profile, she said: “It’s very frantic and because I’m a perfectionist it really gets to me at times. I am happy to be here because it is London Fashion Week. This is our first runway show outside India — so we are very excited.”