They seek each other out. First quietly, measuring the opponent. Then circling like predators, waiting for an opportunity to strike. Measure, circle, wait. And then, attack. Agile warriors, sinewy bodies, lunging, bending, evading, jumping.
The wind’s in their sails, and this is an all out battle, which only the fittest will survive. The winner soars sky high. The loser gently falls. Right into the waiting arms of the street kids, as they chase the floating kite on the streets to reclaim the spoils of war.
This is a wonderfully charming film. Lucid, simple, and poetic, just like the kite battles it shows, it is honestly written and lovingly made. It revolves around Gattu, an orphaned street kid living with his uncle. Gattu is spirited and ambitious, far beyond the conditions he lives in.
He doesn’t like to work in his uncle’s scrap yard. His days are spent evading this drudgery and pursuing the one passion he has — kite flying. His quest for defeating the dreaded Kali (“Black Kite”) is the basic premise of the film.
This quest also represents his ability to overcome his own weaknesses, some circumstantial, some inherent. Lying comes easily to him, and like any other kid, is the best way to get out of trouble. But his character shines through at the end, where he has the courage to say the truth to protect his friends.
More so because he really didn’t have to speak out. As Hollywood superhero blockbusters teach us, it’s our choices that make us who we are. This theme is the heart of the film, and is superbly executed. Credit to a watertight screenplay that this comes through so well.
The film is set in Roorkee and shot on location. The locations are critical; be it his house, his school, or his kite flying areas, you’re always reminded of the poverty he lives in at all times, and is a key character setup element within the film.
The film is technically solid, and never once belies an independent budget, sure signs of a director in control. Even the CG for the kite scenes — an important aspect of the film — though not perfect on the edges, is more than passable.
It just proves that a script with intent and purpose and a filmmaker with vision can overcome pretty much anything that mainstream Bollywood with gigantic budgets throws at you.
Last year, we had Stanley Ka Dabba and Chillar Party, two terrific films with child actors as lead players. Gattu’s Mohammad Samad is a deserving addition to this list. Wiry, wily and bright eyed, he captures the spirit of his character perfectly. Watch him in a wonderfully setup scene when he’s almost caught out for not having a drawing book in his class.
He fakes sickness, and as the teacher pampers him instead of punishing him, he has an almost indiscernible impish grin, acknowledging his narrow escape. In times like this, his performance is nothing short of brilliant, and as good as any we’ve seen in the recent times in Hindi cinema.
The topical relevance of this film is an obvious reason to watch and support it, but Gattu keeps you pleasantly surprised as a well crafted film. Children are God’s gift, they say. This film on children is a gift you’d be well advised to accept.