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A FLIGHT OF PIGEONS

India, 1978 (MIFF 1980, Programme 6)

Director: Shyam Benegal

1857 — India is in turmoil. Indian units of the East India Company's Army are in open revoit, leading to a popular uprising against British rule.

One scorching Sunday morning in May, the regiment jn a small British cantonment mutinies and massacres some Englishmen in a church. The attack on the church is led by an ex-sepoy, Sarfraz Khan. Among those killed is Charles Labadoor. His daughter, Ruth, an Anglo-Indian, her mother and grandmother are the only survivors and they are rescued by one Ramjimal.

Javed Khan, Sarfraz's brother-in-law, had seen Ruth and fallen passionately in love with her. He will not be at peace until he possesses her...

"Based on true events recounted in a diary used by Ruskin Bond as the inspiration for his short story, and shot on the locations where those events actually happened, A Flight of Pigeons is a beguiling attempt to rhyme the wilder excesses of Vamour fou and revolutionary fanaticism ... At times a trifle awkwardly put together (notably in the dream flashes which mark Ruth's gradual abandonment of pride and prejudice as she is faced by the truth that, though she may be the victim of an atrocity, Indians suffered worse, in greater numbers, at the hands of the British) the film is stunningly shot throughout, not least in the way the various cavalry charges invariably degenerate from flowing grace into the same ugly, bloody chaos as the opening massacre. As Benegal has pointed out, there were no battles during the revolutionary campaign, only ragged skirmishes. A Flight of Pigeons goes a commendably long way towards drawing a clear blueprint of cause and effect behind the Indian Mutiny."

Extracts from a review by Tom Milne in Monthly Film Bulletin.

Shyam Benegal — Born 1934.

Feature films — Ankur/The Seedling (1974), Charandas Chor (1975), Nishant/Nighfs End (1975), Manthan/The Churning (1976), Bhumika/The Role (1977), Kondura (or Anugraham)/The Boon (1978), Junoon/A Flight of Pigeons (1979).

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