Cinematic Welcome of Spring

in Bengaluru IFF (BIFFES)

by Viera Langerova

Indian film festivals have a distinct common feature – no matter the day or the hour, audiences flock to the cinemas. Lots of audiences.  And actually, it doesn’t even matter the genre or the country from where the films  made its way to the festival. The people, waiting patiently in long queues before entering the halls seem to be interested in everything.

Film festival in Bengaluru, the capital of the Indian state of Karnataka, is no exception. The festival takes place in the Orion Mall multiplex with eleven screening halls for 2800 spectators .  It is located in the Brigade Gateway enclave along with the Sheraton Hotel, where festival guests were accommodated this year, the World Trade Centre, Columbia Asia Hospital and residential blocks.  In front of Orion is a small lake with fountains, stalls selling all sorts of handicrafts and souvenirs. You can meet  the characters in costumes from the folk theatre of yakshagana, always ready to pose for the pics.  Screening breaks are the moments when you can be fully absorbed by rich and colourfull festival background.

This year, as Kannada cinema marks the 90th anniversary of its first screening, the festival has brought 180 films from around the world, divided into sections and competitions. The first  was concentrated to Asian films, the second  to Indian selection and the third indigenous Kannada films. Apart from the three juries that selected the winners from these competitions, two other juries, FIPRESCI (Indian selection) and NETPAC ( Kannada selection) were choosing  the winners.

The best film award went to the Jordanian-French-Saudi Arabian film Inshallah a Boy by Jordanian director Amjad Al Rasheed , which was premiered at Cannes. When Nawal’s husband dies suddenly, she gets into trouble. The man’s brother has inheritance rights to their house, and he asks her to pay him his share  or move out with her  little daughter. She therefore decides to pretend the pregnancy to buy time. This stops the inheritance proceedings because if a boy is born, he is the heir to the property.  The film is made with a sense of authentic psychological portraits , incorporated into a skillfully written story with a strong female protagonist.

The second award- winning title was Marathi film Sthal directed by Jayant Digambar Somalkar. It tells the story  of  young girl Savita who would prefer to study but the family wants to  marry her off. It´s not an easy task as they face the  unpleasant financial problems. The cotton  prices have dropped dramatically and her father is unable to afford the dowry. Savita finally solves the problem of getting married decisively and irreversibly. The story, with a socially critical accent  is not lacking a dash of humour , with which a courageous, resourceful and unwilling candidate for marriage faces a family crisis.

The third best film was the Uzbek Sunday, directed by Shokir Kholikov. It tells the story of old couple who have to deal with the loss of their household due to the reckless demands of their sons.

The FIPRESCI jury watched twelve Indian films and  appointed the winner – Marathi film Shyamchi Aai directed by Sujay Dahake. In the context of the films presented, it was the only one with a broader socio-historical context, inspired by the real-life coming-of-age story of social activist and freedom fighter Sane Guruji.

We also discussed the film Joseph’s Son , directed by Haobam Paban Kumar , representing the state of Manipur, where dramatic conflicts between local ethnic groups take place. However, the story of a father looking for his son because he has not returned home after football training, lacks a clearer picture of the situation. In fact, we have no idea, who and why  killed the boy.

Most of the films in competition were concentrated to a strong dramatic conflict, determined mostly by the family framework.  We saw two films on marital infidelity – Deep Fridge ( dir. Arjun Dutta) and Pookkaalam (dir. Ganesh Raj), Ayothi (dir. R Manthira Moorthy) where a tyrannical father  causes the death of the mother  and the sorrowful life of a village  widow in a Samarpan  (dir. Arup Manna).

The other line of the stories  had a powerful action potential – Chaver (dir. Tinu Pappachan) about a group of killers fleeing from justice  or  Raastha (dir. Aneesh Anwar) where a small group of friends  help  young woman to search for her mother in Oman. As they head to a town where  some traces have been found, one of them suggests  they should   turn the car to the desert  and enjoy the  sunset. They can’t find their way back and the local police is able to find them after three days  full of dramatic and  exhausting search.

More narrative discipline  would  definitely increase the chances of Bumper ( dir. Selvakumar M), the story of a thief who makes his living by petty fraud and theft. He buys a lottery ticket from a vendor at a station and loses it on the spot. The vendor is looking for him because the lottery ticket won a large sum of money.  Western narrative standards have been replicated in Outhouse (dir. Sunil Sukthankar) where little Neel and her grandma are looking for a lost dog.

The festival programme, under the guidance of the insightful film professional, artistic director Vidya Shankar, offered its audience and guests a wide range of other interesting sections – Women Power in Filmmaking, Critic’s Week, Country Focus to a contemporary German cinema, retrospectives of Abbas Kiarostami and Mrinal Sen, and a panorama of contemporary cinema. “We are presenting the best of world cinema right here in Bengaluru, providing a holistic film experience – cinematic and thematic”, Vidya Shankar commented the objectives of the  festival programme.

Seminars, masterclasses, press talks and workshops accompanied the lively festival buzz, creating a vibrant platform for exchanges, discussions and meetings of filmmakers from all corners of the subcontinent and abroad. Indian film  today is a space filled with creative energy, where a huge amount  of talented people are offering  their stories full of a distinct cultural dynamism and dazzling visuality to  the world audience.

By Viera Langerová 
Edited by Premendra Mazumder