Shivajee Chandrabhushan’s third film One More opened London’s Pan-Asia Film Festival last Friday. As the director’s previous film Frozen won a handful of prizes, expectations might be riding high for this one, but audiences may well find themselves disappointed.
The film is set in the Indian region of Ladakh and follows a local amateur ice hockey team who try and qualify for a tournament abroad. In the best tradition of sporting movies, the team come from behind, face some knock-backs and eventually triumph against the odds. Relying on tried-and-tested formulas needn’t be a bad thing if handled skilfully, after all Hollywood does it often enough, but here the puck misses the net.
It’s an intriguing idea to set a film about ice hockey in India – who would have thought the game was played on the usually sweltering sub-continent? Furthermore, a movie set in Ladakh should catch the attention as it is in an extremely remote and beautiful part of Indian Himalayas known as ‘Little Tibet’ after its strong Tibetan influences. So it has a lovely landscape and an interesting culture going for it and these qualities are indeed strengths of the film.
It starts off with some pretty funny jokes. The team discuss their disadvantage in the upcoming tournament of not having a proper rink to practise on, until someone points out that their opponents are Mongolians who also play on frozen ponds. This raised a laugh from the audience, but sadly these jokes peter out as the film progresses.
According to an article in The Telegraph, Ladakh has a fledgling film industry that has got half the population of the capital city, Leh, thinking they are just about to star in or produce their next movie. Still, it is probably fair to say that the region is fairly new to film-making and there aren’t too many experienced personnel. This probably accounts for the rather wooden acting, or rather why the actors repeat their lines rather than perform them.
One of those early jokes features one of the team showing his team-mate a 10-minute long trailer for his new and utterly ridiculous movie. The friend remarks that if the trailer is 10 minutes, the film must be 10 hours long. Chandrabhushan doesn’t seem to have heeded his own joke, because although One More isn’t the eight hours and five minutes of Andy Warhol’s famous snooze-athon Empire (composed of slow motion footage of the top of the Empire State Building in New York), it would benefit from losing a quarter of its two hour running time.
This is not to say that the film is entirely awful. The actors may not be RADA trained, but their lack of experience makes them very likeable. It is also fascinating to get a little glimpse of the geography and society of Ladakh. Despite the feel of amateur dramatics, there could be a watchable film here waiting to get out, if only the editor had been a bit more ruthless in the cutting room.