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Indian film sparks boiling row

Cannes, May 18: No one was willing to be quoted but senior Indian officials were dismayed after watching the screening of the only Indian film officially selected for competition at Cannes.

“It was awful,” said an Indian diplomat. Others openly wondered why the team at Cannes which chooses films for entry had picked Murali Nair’s Arimpara (The Mole).

At a time when the Indian government and Bollywood have teamed up to promote India’s movie industry at Cannes, Nair’s Arimpara appears to have done a disservice. There is a feeling that Indian films have been projected in a bad light.

Nair, a Malayali now settled in London, is one of the favourites of the Cannes Film Festival. For three consecutive years he has had an entry, which must be a record of sorts.

Three years ago, he won the prestigious Camera d’Or with Marana Simhasanam (Throne of Death). He followed this last year with a slow but whimsical story about a landlord and his dog, Pattiyude Divasam (A Dog’s Day).

This year, in the category known as Un Certain Regard, he showed a 90-minute feature, Arimpara.

It tells the story of a landowner, who does not like a little mole he finds on his chin while shaving one morning. Obsessed with the mole, he accidentally cuts it with a razor.

The film then launches into a bizarre horror movie. As the mole grows in size, it grows into a foot-long mass of blood and puss. For some reason, perhaps understood only by the director, Nair chooses to focus on the oozing object in clinical detail and at great length.

The movie had started promisingly enough against the lush background of the Kerala countryside, with the plot dwelling on the close relationship between the landowner and his little son.

But once the mole takes over — and it does develop a mind of its own — Arimpara becomes a baffling experience. For example, the huge mole manages to rape and strangle the maid.

“There was no meaning,” an Indian official said later. He was worried that “foreigners would go away thinking this film represents the Indian film industry — it does not”.

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