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Just Cheel….Here’s Why All That Breathes Stands A  Very Good Chance Of Winning The Oscar



All That  Breathes

All That  Breathes  is very likely to bring us the Oscar for  best documentary. Not only is it  attention-worthy  for its exceptional  humanism, but also the deeper political thrusts  that have  far  graver ramifications  than the kites(cheel)  falling from the sky and being nursed to health by  two brothers Nadeem and Saud.

Not even the most diehard cynic  can question the selfless compassion  of the two brothers. The  director Shaunak Sen adopts the reality-television  approach. We see the brothers  and their family in their  portable home in  old Delhi  not even  the size of  an average home for two people,housing  hundreds of birds.They speak to one  another  as though they are  unaware  of the camera. This, if we think about it, is a subtle form  of subterfuge  , though it  appears  to be  just the  opposite. I would have  preferred to see Nadeem and  Saud  acknowledging  the  presence of  the camera.

What I really liked   about  Nadeem  and Saud’s devotion to  healing the birds was the  absence  of selfcongratulations.  They are not in this to become heroes.This makes the international acclaim of this  documentary  fairly ironical. For, here we have the most reluctant heroes I’ve ever seen.If you  ask them why  they bring wounded  kites home they will probably  ask you to  just cheel.

Remarkably the entire  documentary is  done without the intervention of  a narrator or a narration. It’s just the two brothers  in their kerchief-sized sanctuary doing the best they can for these skybound creatures.

It is  a beautiful fable , the stuff that fairytales are made of, rendered in the timbre of  reality, denuded  of vanity and  arrogance.

But at the same  time  All That  Breathes, for all its custom-built candour on the shift on  the  eco-system(there are  evocations of dark dingy skylines and  birds falling from the sky) has a disturbing political undercurrent . It is no coincidence  that this family of bird lovers is Muslim.

    The  fact this gentle  eco-friendly family represents that secular role-model—the  humane  apotheosized Muslim joint family—is driven home  through constant  evocations of violence outside and  hate speeches on  loudspeakers  right outside  the modest but  therapeutic  bird sanctuary for  kites that Nadeem and Saud have  built.

We hear at  one point the two brothers  discussing their depleting funds to look after  their birds, and how the  government won’t allow them  any foreign funding. The insinuation being, since they are a Muslim family they are  looked on with suspicion, no matter how noble their intentions.

In another slanted  reference  to Islamophobia, one  of  the  brothers’ wives asks  gently why they have to migrate to  Pakistan  or Bangladesh if and when they are branded refugees in India.

Watching  All That  Breathes  is like watching  two different  stories  meshed into one. While the  story  of  two brothers tending to birds is supremely  heartwarming, the other story of a Muslim family struggling to keep their altruistic aspirations  alive in the midst of growing hostility and isolation seemed incongruous and a  little out of  place  .

 Do the birds care whether their caretakers  pray at a temple or a mosque?

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