Desperately Seeking Helen | Chicago Reader

Desperately Seeking Helen

Filmmaker Eisha Marjara was born in India and emigrated to Quebec as a child; in this engrossing 1998 autobiographical film she ponders her ethnic identity, the power of pop culture, the nature of femininity, and her mother?s failure to balance East against West, all the while embarking on a wild (and perhaps imaginary) search for Helen, an Indian film star who played the vamp in hundreds of Bollywood musicals. Marjara mixes photos, home movies, film clips, and footage of her journey through the teeming Bombay of the mid-90s, digressing from one topic to the next in a sequence that becomes increasingly resonant and finally supplying an epiphany of sorts when the pivotal events of her life are revealed. The film?s mix of confessional, travelogue, and postmodern cultural critique is truly ingenious, and if Marjara?s deadpan voice-over doesn?t win you over, the archival footage of Helen?s brazen dance routines may do the trick.

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