Kamal Swaroop / India / 2017 / 100 mins
Surrounded by mountain ranges, bordering a desert and set on a lake, Pushkar makes for a dreamy cinematic location. The city also has immense religious and cultural significance: for Hindus it is one of the most holy destinations, and every year thousands gather to trade animals and enjoy the fair, the folk artists and the musicians. Pushkar Myths (or the original title: Pushkar Puran) is the most recent documentary from Kamal Swaroop. It depicts this celebration, blending myths and anecdotes with striking shots to show both the enchantment and the daily life of the fair.
By and large, the documentary forgoes the more familiar, Louis Theroux or Planet Earth style voiceover in favour of long, un-narrated shots or stories told by individuals. The seemingly unfiltered conversations – one, for example, describes in detail the sexual routines of the monkeys he sees everyday – are engagingly frank.
However, it was disappointing that there weren’t more interviews with women. In one scene in particular, a man is discussing his worldly travels and his God-given power of begetting children while a woman sits silently nearby. Although ample camera time is given to viewing her, it would have been more interesting to see what she has to say.
These scenes are interspersed with stories from Hindu mythology. The sacrifice of the horse is particularly gripping in its violence and its beauty, with its fate made even more striking by the accompanying shot of a glorious white stallion, who perhaps awaits the same death.
It is the beautiful visuals which make this documentary so special. These include a David Attenborough-worthy scene of a monkey drinking water shot from beneath the surface of the pool; an unsteadily centred image of the moon and a teeming shoal of fish just below the surface of the water. But the best was a dream-like view of white geese gliding over an inky lake that reflects a shimmering black night sky. It is perhaps worth seeing this film for this scene alone.