MEHNDI & ME by LAURA P. VALTORTA

Directed by Laura P. Valtorta / Reviewed by Akarsh Jaiswal

India is a country of diversity; diverse religions and cultures. So diverse that on a given moment it’s not very hard to know which part of the country you are standing in. Each and every culture has something unique. Some wear bright and colourful attire for weddings,  some just go for  simple white and gold. Some wear whites to mourn,   some wear black for the same. Some are loud and some are quiet. But even after so much of diversity, some things are the same. We are going to talk about something like that.

India shares it’s border with the 92nd Largest country in surface and 8th in terms of population, Bangladesh. It was a part of India up until 1947 when India became independent and Bangladesh became East Pakistan. Then in 1971, after years of struggle, Bangladesh was an independent country.   The reason behind that history lesson was to establish that all these countries i.e. India, Pakistan and  Bangladesh (some other nearby countries as well) share many similarities because they were once a single land without borders. That borderless land still exists in the culture and rituals of these countries. One  such is Mehndi, or Henna as it’s called in the western countries. Mehndi is a part of each and every individual’s lives who belong to these countries. And I’m not kidding, each and every individual.

Mehndi is undoubtedly a huge part of weddings, celebrations, songs and movies. It’s a very common household item which is immensely popular, and is used everyday by someone or the other. Mehndi art is subtle, unique and requires precision. Such a person is Laboni Sarkar. She belongs to Bangladesh and currently resides in United States with her husband and two daughters. She is a homemaker who made the Mehndi art popular there in the neighborhood. Independent Filmmaker Laura P. Valtorta recently made this film on Laboni Sarkar’s art which shows her talking about her history, family and the art she loves.

The film is a great presentation showcasing Laboni’s art over a conversation, about Mehndi art and her family. Laura’s film is a great example of semi documentary, featuring a popular eastern art in the western environment. How women there see it, learn about it and seem to enjoy having it on them. Laboni Sarkar is also credited for the music of the film.

A beautiful Bengali folk song keeps playing in the background and gives you a soothing feeling such as Mehndi does. As an Indian, it was great to see how Mehndi is getting mixed in the Western culture. Although the camera work could have been better, the film is a great take on the diversity of two completely different countries. The documentary features Laboni doing her art as Laura makes a conversation with her daughters. These girls, living away from the land her mother once lived in, are seeing their mother keeping something from her homeland alive in this world of digital art. It must be an inspiration for them. This film is a great experience  for the audience who like to watch inspirational documentaries.

At last, I want to say that no matter where you are from, and where you will be, little things like Mehndi can bring people closer.

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