Shadows of Time

(Schatten der Zeit, Florian Gallenberger, Germany/India, 2004)


This German-Indian co-production, shot in Calcutta, is an intriguing item. It is the debut feature of director Florian Gallenberger, who was inspired to make it after serving on a film festival jury in India.

Shadows of Time is an Indian melodrama, but without the musical sequences typical of Bollywood, and including some discreet touches of carnal passion usually forbidden in this national genre.

The story traces, over a lifetime, the impossible love of Ravi (Prashant Narayanan) and Masha (Tannishtha Chatterjee). Orphaned children of poverty in pre-Independence India, they work for a pittance in the textile industry; Masha is eventually groomed for prostitution.

Both characters reach social respectability, but by that time they are long separated and married to other partners. When they meet again by chance, they grapple with the issue of responsibility versus desire – especially when there are kids in the mix. The tale is framed as a melancholy flashback from Ravi's old age.

Although this is not a conventional Bollywood production, it is not an arthouse film either. Gallenberger is unashamed to play on the teary sentimentality of his material. Many emotional scenes – in the rain, on a train platform, amidst the crowd at a temple – seem on the verge of exploding into song and dance.

© Adrian Martin December 2005

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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