Opening today in the UK and then on the 25th of March in India, is the Sangeeta Datta directed Life Goes On, starring Girish Karnad, Om Puri, Sharmila Tagore, and Soha Ali Kahn. The film was shot in London and has a great line up of young British talent to round out the cast as well. Describing the film Datta told us, “Life Goes On is a freewheeling adaptation of King Learset in a modern Brit-Asian context. It is an emotional family drama but deals with real issues that confront today’s diaspora. The film also deals with the history of Indian partition and how it has left great trauma which bears on current perceptions – its quite complex really.”
So what was the driving force behind her decision to make this film? “After 9/11 and 7/7 the growing Islamophobia that I perceived actually propelled me to tell this story and make this film quite urgently.”
Life Goes On is a drama that explores the relations between a grief stricken father and his three daughters. Set in London, the time is now, the family of Indian origin- part of the UK diaspora.
With his wife’s sudden death, Sanjay is suddenly thrown into close proximity with his three daughters. The drama unfolds over five days from the day when Manju dies to day of the funeral. Haunted by memories, grappling with this devastating loss, missing the mediating influence of his wife, Sanjay finds himself assessing and carving out new relations with his three daughters. He is faced with a further crisis when he discovers his youngest and most loved daughter Dia, has a Muslim boyfriend -Imtiaz. Confused and angry, Sanjay leaves home and wanders the streets of London one night. With an unexpected series of events, Sanjay is forced to face his past demons, his trauma over the partition of India when as a child, he was forced to leave his home with his parents. Finally to come to terms with his old and unspoken prejudice about Muslims, in the larger context of the country in the grips of Islamaphobia as the events of 7/7 and the consequences of the Iraq war reverberate.
As he sits drenched and tired on a bench on Hampstead Heath and watches the sun rise – Sanjay puts his demons to rest. At the funeral he has come to terms with himself, he allows the Muslim boy to join the family rituals and sees his daughters for what they are and not what he expected them to be. It is a story about overcoming grief and prejudice by embracing life. It is a layered story about generational conflict where we enter many lives from many cultures and know them better. Inspired by the popular song ‘Life Goes on and this whole world will keep on turning…’.
This is the first time Sharmila Tagore and her daughter Soha Ali Khan are appearing in a film together. Soha told Steven Baker, “As far as my mother is concerned, she is quite terrifying and makes me very nervous. She can be quite critical sometimes of my choice of sari, or tells me to wear my hair up, or will say ‘Do you really have to wear those shoes?’ She was of course such a huge fashion icon and I can’t compete with that.” Adding that once they got in front of the camera, “The mother-daughter dynamic felt very natural and the nature of the scenes and dialogue felt very natural. On occasion my mother would say ‘Don’t wear those earrings, wear these ones’. But apart from that she was very restrained.”
The film is also a tribute Nobel-laureate Tagore on his 150th anniversary and includes translations of Tagore’s music into Hindi by Bollywood legendary poet Javed Akhtar. The film’s score was composed by Soumik, who is a star in the Brit-Asian music world.
Datta says she wanted to make something different, “I wanted to make a Brit-Asian drama which was a departure from the usual stereotypical curry-comedy. There are other stories to tell. It’s been a long journey for an independent Brit-Asian film and I am glad we have come this far.”
Life Goes On has screened at several prestigious film festivals around the world and won the Audience Award at the London Asian Film Festival 2010 and the Best Feature Film Award at the 2009 Pravasi Film Festival, New Delhi 2010. Be sure to catch it in London for the next two weeks and then on the 25th it will open in India!