Movie Review by Rob Humanick
Published November 13, 2007
Like another recent, sterling doc, Rolling Like a Stone, I for India acts as a ravishing film-on-film commentary, examining its cinematic subject as if it were one of life's most sacred connective tissues. In 1965, Yash Pal Suri and his wife Sheel left India for England in hopes of obtaining more beneficial medical training. Finding long-distance telephoning unstable and letter writing too time-consuming and equally unsatisfying, Yash purchased two sets of 8mm cameras, projectors, and tape recorders, keeping one for himself and sending the other to his family in India. Over the years, each would create regular cinematic "postcards" for the other, sharing intimate images of their life and work even as their time apart began to manifest itself in their developing social and cultural differences. I for India speaks painfully to the woes of familial separation brought about by immigration (bringing to mind the devastating Balseros), showcasing both decades-old footage recorded by Yash and his family as well as official BBC programs concerning the growing population of foreigners. The film, directed by Yash's daughter Sandhya Suri, is poignant in its evocation of a single family's fractured identity, but it is this very approach that gives its core cinematic leanings such a universal quality; hazy home-movie footage appears to flow as if out of some dreamlike ether, while the recorded voices of Yash and his family are not unlike unseen, disembodied spirits echoing across the cosmos. A second-half development in which Yash, Sheel, and their three daughters temporarily return to India necessitates the use of generic interviews over the sensual 8mm footage from before. Though this disappoints stylistically, it emboldens I for India's thematic inquisition into identity—how these people define themselves via their place in a world in which they seem forever placeless. The film comes full circle, then, when Yash's daughter Vanita leaves home for work in Australia, with online webcams now acting as the camera and projector between parent and child, capturing and relaying their love for each other with a tender, unspoken effectiveness.