The India focus at IFFI


The International Film Festival of India held in Goa recently, had interesting focus this year on films from Jharkhand, and sports. Shoma A. Chatterji chronicles the festival.

The 49th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) opened on 20 of November, and continued for eight days. The international competition section had 15 films out of which three were Indian. The competition section represented films produced and co-produced by 22 different countries.

The Jharkhand, sports focus

Two most interesting screening programmes this year were – a focus of the cinema of Jharkhand, which probably few knew about, and the screening of films on sports and sportspersons. The first feature film of Jharkhand was Aakarant made under the banner of Drishyantar International, 1988. Earlier this year, The Ranchi Press Club organised the Jharkhand International Film Festival where 42 film personalities from Jharkhand were bestowed awards. The Jollywood Cine Kala Awards were initiated way back in 2008. The Jharkhand film industry works together with films made in Nagpur so these films also formed a part of the Jharkhand film industry. Some of the award-winning films are – Road to Sangam, Pyar Kar Mehendi Rachaye Lio Re, Nari Kar Dil Aisan Bhi Hoyela, the documentary Unity in Diversity made by the students of Karim City College, Jamshedpur, and The dark side by the students of Central University, Ranchi. A very good short film that has won awards is Speed.

As an extension of the Khelo India Campaign, there was a special film section as a part of the Open Air Screenings at IFFI. Biopics and films of incredibly talented sports players who have made our country proud through their achievements included, Gold, Mary Kom, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, M.S. Dhoni – The Untold Story, Soorma and 1983 (Malayalam.) A sports film that is fiction demands extremely detailed technique and the use of training and other paraphernalia including the choice of the main cast and the actual framing and choreographing of the sports scenes. One wonders why films like Chak De India, Lagaan, Paan Singh Tomar and Saala Khadoos were overlooked. Besides, the open air screenings kept much of film lovers away because they were aware that this involved difficulties in the audiovisual quality of the films.

The international section screened around 144 films from 68 countries. There were 15 acclaimed films that vied for the Golden Peacock award and two debut filmmakers who made it to the international competition section. This included three Indian entires with two in Malayalam. One is Ee Ma Yau directed by Leo Jose Pelliserry, and the Tamil entry To Let which has already won the national award. Then there was Olu (She) in Malayalam, the latest directorial venture of Shaji Karun which is also the inaugural film of the Indian Panorama. Eee Ma Yau is a beautifully eloquent exploration of the relation- ship between an irresponsible, alcoholic father and his son, who promises the father that he will give the father a memorable last rites celebration. To Let is a very simple, straightforward narrative that journeys with a young couple in their incessant struggle to find a rented abode. She unfolds the love story between a man and a beautiful young woman who he cannot see because she is destined to live under water. It is poetic, lyrical, and a visually rich film.

The tributes to Sridevi, Vinod Khanna

A tribute section was dedicated to the late actress Sridevi whose last film Mom had a special screening. Sridevi’s performance in Mom as the avenging step mother reiterates the fear that films like Pink and Drishyam and Badlapur have already shown – that in a world where rapists go scot-free and unpunished in a court of law, the victim becomes the victimiser even if it leads to a series of murders. Letting go of criminals sets the ball rolling to produce new criminals in society without eliminating the ones that exist!

The late Vinod Khanna who also passed away last year, received a posthumous tribute with the screening of Achanak, Lekin and Amar Akbar Antony. The first two are films directed by Gulzar who gave him his first break as the leading man in Mere Apne. Achanak is an intriguing thriller with a powerful underpinning of humanism. Lekin boasted a lilting musical score telling a ghost story with Dimple Kapadia featuring in the female lead. Amar Akbar Antony having been a thumping hit about three brothers separated at birth was a thumping hit that needs no introduction. There was also a Homage section dedicat- ed to the late Shashi Kapoor that screened his old film Vijeta that featured his elder son Kunal Kapoor, Karunanidhi, whose national award-winning film Malaikkallan was a part of and Kalpana Lajmi’s much discussed and researched film Rudali.

The Indian Panaroma

The Indian Panorama boasted of 22 feature films from across the country and four mainstream films. Among the Panorama films, one must mention music director and singer Arijit Singh’s directorial debut film Sa in Bengali. Sa is a tribute to Arijit’s love for Indian classical and folk music and the tough regimental life it advocates. It is about finding peace and harmony in pursuit of the final layer of the sound of music. Sa is also about the simple, innocent life that still sustains in India amidst the natural ambience of Mother Nature.

The other Bengali films in the fray were – Uronchandi, Uma, Abyakto and Nagarkirtan. Nagarkirtan, directed by Kaushik Ganguly, has already won four national awards, but is yet to get a theatrical release. It explores the dilemmas and the social struggles of the transgender community and stands out for its unusual structure plus the brilliant acting. Uronchondi marks the debut of a young director Abhishek Saha. It is a road where the road is both a physical reality and forms the central backdrop of the film and is also a journey film that defines both the external journey and the metaphorical journey of the four characters who become a group unto themselves. They are the “others” who bond “together” by the common thread of being outcastes, of their own volition.

Uma is inspired by the true story of Evan Leversage, known as “the boy who moved Christmas.” This seven-year-old who lived in St. George, Ontario, Canada, was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2015, and doctors said that he would not survive to celebrate Christmas. Abyakto, directed by Arjunn Dutta, is firstly about the coming-of-age of the protagonist, and secondly, about the constant flux in the relationship between a mother and her son.

Of the four films in the mainstream section, one interestingly discovered the inclusion of Raazi, an outstanding film, and Padmavat, besides Mahanati in Telugu and Tiger Zinda Hai in Hindi. Sujit Sarkar’s October too, found a place in the Indian Panorama.

Shoma A. Chatterji

Shoma A. Chatterji is a freelance journalist, film scholar and author. She has authored 17 published titles and won the National Award for Best Writing on Cinema, twice. She won the UNFPA-Laadli Media Award, 2010 for ‘commitment to addressing and analysing gender issues’ among many awards.