Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sing-Lem (REVIEW)

Another film by Tshering Wangyel is showing to a packed Trowa Theatre at Changjiji in Thimphu. Romantically named Sing-Lem, the film is loosely based on the fabled love story of Gasa Lami Singye and Changyul Bum Galem. In the original story that takes place in the mediaeval Bhutan, Singye, the attendant of the Lama of Gasa Dzong, falls in love with the beauty of Changyul, a village in Punakha. But before their love blossoms into a happy marriage, tragedy strikes. And their love is harshly snuffed out.

The film extends the tragic ending of Gasa Lami Singye and retells the story with a happy ending. Unlike in the original story, the lovers in the film meet a tragic end only to be reborn to meet again. The story line is also reminiscent of another popular Bhutanese love story, Mitshe Sumgi Drok (Lovers of three lifetimes).

The plot is divided into two parts. The first half draws many parallels to the original Gasa Lami Singye story. In the second half, however, the plot deviates significantly from the original. Nevertheless, the director has achieved a seamless continuity of the two parts.

In addition, the film deploys some impressive special effects. A nightmare scene, which depicts a disfigured character with revolving head and heavily scarred face, is reminiscent of the Hollywood classic, The Exorcist. In terms of overall quality, the special effects are much like that of Bollywood films from the past, which is impressive considering that the director could have worked with a significantly lower budget.

There is something different about the background music in the film. The bits of orchestra music amid the usual Dzongkha songs provide a theatrical experience that has been rare among Bhutanese films.

However, the transitions between scenes are abrupt, and the melodrama is a little overdone. The use of a grenade in the closing scene and certain bloody scenes look exaggerated.

Although the dialogues are generally witty, at times, the actors seem to read from the screenplay rather than speak them out in a conversational tone. However, the lead actors are convincing. Tandin Bidha and Tandin Sonam both carry the audience with them. Audiences react with sighs of relief when they narrowly escape death and fall silent when they die. The supporting characters are also generally effective, particularly in humorous parts of the film.

The widely known comedian, Phurba Thinley, stands out, this time for the more serious role he plays. Although the audience easily laughs at the mere glimpses of his face, his role in the film is refreshingly clean of his usual slapstick and earthy humour.

According to a ticket seller, Trowa Theatre has been fully packed for nine consecutive days since the film premiered. And understandably so. The film has employed the basic formula for success in the Bhutanese market – the usual dose of Phurba Thinley humour and several Bollywood-style dance scenes.

Source: Bhutan Observer

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