Sixth Happiness

****1/2

Reviewed by: John Gallagher

Not since David Lynch's Mulholland Drive have I been as confused about my feelings towards a movie.

Sixth Happiness deals with the true-life story of Firdaus Kanga, who is crippled by brittle bone disease, and how it affects the people closest to him. Watching the film, you experience an interesting blend of humour and sorrow and how quickly it switches between the two.

Set in Bombay, it follows Brit (Kanga) and his family as they go through life in the way that they know how. Born with a disease that makes his bones brittle (hence the name Brit), he must accept that he won't grow any bigger than an eight-year-old.

It's not just Brit who has to come to terms with the illness, but also those around him, especially his everything-English-loving mother Sera (Souad Faress) and his father (Khodus Wadia), who works in a bank. Throw in a mentor, a few crazy neighbours and a love interest and you have a fascinating, fresh and unique film about a deeply unsettling subject. We tend to treat physically disabled people like children and director Waris Hussein breaks with the stereotype and shows Brit as a flawed, sexual character, not passive but actively trying to forge a future for himself beyond the life of dependence his disease forces upon him.

This is not strictly a work of fiction, as it is based on Trying To Grow, Kanga's acclaimed autobiography. It is his story and we are about to see it through the eyes of the only person who can experience what Brit goes through. It is a captivating performance, made all the more compelling by Kanga's professional approach, considering this is his first acting role.

The film follows a few twists and turns while Brit tries to come to terms with what he is and we feel honoured to be able to experience it with him, even if sometimes you don't know whether to laugh or cry.

It has something for everyone and after watching it you feel a bit better about yourself.

Reviewed on: 10 Apr 2005
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Sixth Happiness packshot
The life, loves and laughter of an irrepressible Indian with brittle bone disease.
Amazon link

Director: Waris Hussein

Writer: Firdaus Kanga

Starring: Firdaus Kanga, Souad Faress, Khodus Wadia, Nina Wadia, Ahsen Bhatti, Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal, Nisha K Nayar, Indira Varma

Year: 1997

Runtime: 91 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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