The Economic Times

‘An Exotica Called Kundun’
by Rafique Baghdadi
(The Economic Times. March 19, 2000)

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and a young monk wading at the seaside

Kundun finds director Martin Scorsese reaching for a new vision. Exploring the essense of Buddhism, the director shows us the life of the 14th Dalai Lama. Beginning in '37, Kundun opens on a two year old boy who, when discovered by a group of monks on a rural Tibetan farm, is deemed to be a the new Dalai Lama — the latest reincarnation of the Buddha of Compassion.

From here, the film chronicles the boy's life through the bloody Chinese Communist invasion of '50 to his final escape into exile in India. Kundun follows in outline the Dalai Lama's autobiography My Land and My People.

Despite the remarkable story, it is, unfortunately, soured by storytelling problems and marred by messy and episodic narrative. Scorsese's documentary style accumulation of exotic detail occasionally serves to distance rather than illuminate the sacred world.

Kundun has powerful images that mesmerise with their haunting beauty; with the stark, improbable beauty of its setting, its marvellously haunting score by Philip Glass and Roger Deakin's remarkable photography. Deakin applied colour in the film like Like A Painter, and used naturalistic light. The film is more a poem than a traditional narrative. Kundun has gorgeous production design and costumes. The film is a celebration of Buddhism that engorges the senses.

There is no doubting Martin Scorsese's awe and and passion for his subject. A rich, spiritual film that will stay with you for a long time.

Kundun was shown at the 'Festival of Tibet' at Chavan Centre. Its invitation card is a collector's item like the movie Kundun .