New Delhi: Concerns and issues that plague their countries are amply reflected in themes that the first time film-makers from Asia tend to dabble with. Also their subject matter and cinematic treatment are identifiable with audiences relating better vis-à-vis say a French, Italian or even an American film. This seemed to be the overriding sentiment in the press meets, discussions and exchanges that marked the 9th Osian Film Festival that is currently being held at four locations in the capital.
Anish S. Ahluwalia’s Are you there is about lonely people in a real world trying to find solace through the virtual world of the Internet. Here, they connect with people they think are more like-minded, hoping to come to terms with their acute sense of isolation. Without dwelling on the merits or demerits of technology per se, it makes a comment on how people are increasingly experiencing a disconnect in their real lives, relationships and situations and instead turning to virtual reality to seek solutions and recourse. With Rajit Kapoor in the central role, the film is poignant at one level and disturbing at another.
Undettered by challenges
Stretching the limits of conventional film-making techniques are a new crop of film makers who are unafraid to traverse paths less trod and are also not always eyeing bottomlines. While profitability and raking in the moolah is always welcome, for some, the fact that they could tell their story and show it to the world, is in itself a feat to be celebrated.
Shivajee Chandrabhushan, who produced and directed Frozen, said his was the first film crew to shoot a full-length feature film in the Ladakh region where the Indian army bears the burden of guarding the borders in a lonely and somewhat hostile environment.
He chose to go in for an all black and white format since he was convinced it suited the mood of the film and the location far better. Danny Denzongpa was his choice for the lead role.
Bappaditya Bandopadhyaya’s film Kaal is the second in his series on women after Barbed Wire which relates to human trafficking and flesh trade and brings out similarities in rural and urban settings.
Saeid Ehmedifikar, director of Lonesome Trees which is competing in the Asian Arab category at the festival, said his film had taken him more than six years to complete because of financial difficulties but he was happy to have finally been able to fulfill his dream. Interestingly, he feels that censorship actually encourages film-makers to find newer ways to put forth their point of view.
Paruthiveeran captures the life, heritage and culture of Madurai’s inhabitants who are dominated by the Thevar community which is a fierce and emotional warrior clan, propelled by caste fanaticism. On one hand it deals with the explosive theme of a forbidden love story between a local criminal and village girl, on the other hand it had to overcome serious dialect issues. To retain its purity, the film -maker spent considerable time on extensive research and experimentation, something which the average film maker may not have done.
In Bhairavi, Suhail Tatari uses classical music almost like a character with a healing touch. It not only sets the mood for the film but helps express various emotions, nuances and undercurrents that crop up during the story. While being aware of the risk that came from using strong tones of classical music, in a time and age when modern, fusion and remixes could make or break a film, he went ahead with his gut feeling and cast “classical music in a central role”.
Cross cutting themes
When Paolo Herras directed the Philippines film Rekados, using food as a metaphor to highlight the plight of women, he knew that this was a theme that would find a resonance in cultures and social settings in most Asian countries. The film revolved around three generations of cooks and the dishes they made, without losing sight of the fact that the woman herself was perpetually treated as a dish, to be partaken, sometimes with delight and sometimes with contempt.
Mayu Nakamura’s Summer of a Stickleback deliberately chose a story that her male counterparts would not bother to delve into the folds of. “Women in Japan are objectified and cuteness is a keyword that is used to describe women. My main character is not cute, she is angry and sexually awakened and in no way am I apologetic about etching out this new Japanese woman icon” she says.
The stickleback is a rare fish where the mother lays the eggs but does not tend to the offspring for that is the job of the father. Fascinated by the way nature allows it to lead this unfettered life, she decided to use the stickleback as an ironic metaphor for the family, in particular to suggest the absence of the father. A powerful tale, and one which once again, found a common strand with women viewers from Asian and Arab countries.
Often it has been lamented that while India may have a growing breed of film makers who are trying out new forms and themes, it is still uncertain terrain. The success of Bheja Fry has come as a whiff of fresh air, for it shatters multiple myths that have so far hounded Hindi commercial cinema. But it’s a long way off before Indian audiences can be said to be aesthetically as evolved as their European and Western counterparts.
With Neville Tuli, chairman, Osian committing to, “Create an artistic cultural discipline that can initiate dialogue/s in some form that can further enhance the socio-cultural and political ethos in our part of the world,” film festivals like the Osians may just prove to be catalytic agents which at one level refine the filmgoer’s sensibilities and at another, allow film makers to use themes that serve as a spring board to change in society.