Walking With The Wind, which is dedicated to the legendary filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami who died last year, borrows its title from a book of poems by the Iranian. Directed by Praveen Morchhale, the film is set in a small Ladakhi village where life is harsh but achingly simple.
Tsering (Sonam Wangyal) is alone in class one day when he spies a beautiful blue butterfly enter. He tries to capture it and climbs up on the wooden desks and chairs, breaking one eventually when it can’t support his weight. The chair belongs to his good friend and classmate and Tsering quickly ties a scarf around it before anyone can notice. This incident sets off a chain of events for young Tsering who tries his best to right a wrong.
The school where the children study is 7km away from the village and donkeys are often used to transport them to and fro. After everyone leaves, Tsering stealthily brings the chair back with him on his donkey to fix before anyone notices. Tsering lives with his parents and younger sister Dolma in Yangthang village. Theirs is an uncomplicated life though money is tough.
Young Tsering is hardworking and resourceful. He studies, does his chores, and is respectful to his elders. In between fulfilling his responsibilities, he tries his best to get the chair repaired, taking it first to the local carpenter and then to the artisan. Eventually, he does succeed, but loses his donkey when his father sells it to cover the cost of his mother’s delivery bills. Now how will Tsering take the chair back to school?
More than anything, Walking With The Wind gives an insight into a population we rarely see in India. Yes, Ladakh is a massive tourist destination, but it is not seen in films apart from its usual touristy locations. A sequence in the film incorporates the popular Hemis festival and the crowd there compared to the sparse village scenes is especially striking.
The film uses non-professional actors who speak in their native language, Ladakhi, but are comfortable speaking in Hindi and English as well. The majority of the film's dialogues are in Ladakhi.
Young Sonam Wangyal, with his wide-eyed stare, charms you at once with his childlike dilemmas. He runs with determination across the lush valleys, the harsh, rocky hills, and narrow walkways of his village. The rest of the characters, from the assorted old men (one of whom quotes Kiarostami’s poems) who gather at the village square to the tourist guides and the wise old women give a sense of a life well lived.
Tsering’s house also doubles up as a home stay. When a Japanese tourist comes to stay for a project and needs to make an urgent call, she can’t get a telephone signal anywhere and has to climb a hill to talk. She asks Tsering what if he needs to call someone, and he simply answers, "My whole family is here."
Yangthang, with green fields, cobbled pathways and cosy homes, shot lovingly by cinematographer Mohammed Reza Jahanpanah, is unfettered with worries of the outside world. The people exist here without TV, internet and mobile phones. One old man is regarded suspiciously when he brings along an old radio to the village square. Getting a glimpse of this uncomplicated lifestyle will make you want to book the next flight to Ladakh.
Writer-director Praveen Morchhale keeps the story and overall film unpretentious and pure at heart. That’s all you really need.
Walking With The Wind was screened at the 19th MAMI Mumbai Film Festival on 12 October 2017.