A good twenty of my friends got together tonight at the Neptune Theatre in the University District to watch the SIFF screening of Hari Om. Set in North India, the story traces the travels of Isa and her unlikely guide, Hari Om, through picturesque Rajasthan. Isa (a french tourist) and Benoit (her beau) alight from The Palace on Wheels at Jaipur station, with one day to look around the Pink City before their journey continues through Rajasthan. You get the sense rightaway that Benoit treats Isa more as an incumberance than a partner, and a jilted Isa decides to go out and explore Jaipur (and then more of Rajasthan) by herself. It is in the company of Hari Om, the simple auto-rickshaw driver, that Isa finds someone to laugh with with as she soaks in the beautiful sights and sounds of urban and rural Rajasthan.
What starts off as a fun day in Jaipur becomes nightmarish when Isa misses her train out of Jaipur to Jaisalmer. Lucky for her, Hari Om finds her asleep by a railway crossing and agrees to drive her to Jaisalmer in time for her to resume her train journey. Isa's journey through the desert becomes a voyage of discovery; she begins to understand and respect the people she meets and starts figuring out what she wants from her life. As they ride from Jaipur to Jaisalmer, their travails blur their cultural differences and bring them closer together. Before they can admit to themselves, they've fallen in love with each other.
My favourite scenes in the movie had Isa and Hari Om at different physical locations. Their ennui and wistful expressions gave away their desires to be in each other's company. The most touching moment was when he appears at the bus station with wilted roses just as she is about to buy a ticket to Jaisalmer. She sees him, walks away from the counter and says, "I didn't want to take the bus anyways."
Did I mention anywhere that Isa, aka Camille Natta, is smoking hot. Seeing her in a Rajasthani ghagra doing a folk dance, that definitely made the movie worth the admission price.
My vote - ****