Lately, there has been a slew of original screen stories with local storytelling and narrative traditions. These are not processed in production labs or kaleidoscopic studios. They are rooted crucially in a local context. They have precious rough textures and the indigenous smell of earth. They are regularly selected at film festivals but a global theatrical release is their distant dream.
Independent cinema in India might be relegated a subservient role to ‘Bollywood’ productions. But with international accolades and acclaim that films like Miss Lovely, Shuttlecock Boys, The Lunchbox, Peddlers, and Ship of Theseus have won at international platforms of Cannes, Venice, Toronto and Sundance, they have brought together a ‘new wave’ in indies, one reminiscent of the ‘Indian New Wave’ of 1960s for the Indian intelligentsia. The locale issues and perspectives have found a cinematic media of expression through experimental films. Such films explore facets of our society and instill hope for a favorable environment. This year has noteworthily brought to foray regional cinema which any serious cinephile would appreciate:
Leena Yadav’s Parched is the story of three women protagonists: Rani, a widow played by Tannishtha Chatterjee, Lajjo played by Radhika Apte and Bijli, an erotic dancer played by Surveen Chawla. The film is set in rural Gujarat where these three women defy patriarchal norms. The screenplay evolves as they struggle to find space and share their thoughts on men, sex, and life. The film was first premiered at Toronto Film Festival 2015 where it won international acclaim.
Qaushiq Mukherjee, known for his cult film Gandu and Tasher Desh, came up with Brahman Naman, a jarring and dissonant sex comedy. The film stars Shashank Arora from Titli fame in the pivotal role of an ‘intellectual nerd’ studying at a Banglore University. He, along with his two friends is bent on losing his virginity and ends up committing crazy acts. The trio earns money on the quiz circuit and uses the reward money to buy themselves drinks and fantasize around the neighborhood belle.
Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s latest film Tope is based on a short story by Narayan Gangopadhyay. An artistic community is used as a bait for a few men’s personal vendetta. And what follows is a gripping and chilling tale of self-exploration. Actors Sudipto Chatterjee, Paoli Dam, Ananya Chatterjee and Chandan Roy Sanyal are in the pivotal role.
Ozhivu Divasthe Kali
Sanal Kumar Sasidharan follows the same spiral after the success of his last film Oral Pokkam in Ozhivu Divasthe Kali. The story is one dealing with society, caste system and social divide. It digs out deeply rooted disparities and discrimination that exist and are brought out when provoked. Four friends go on a vacation on an election day. The movie depicts male counter-thoughts against social norms and beliefs.
Chauthi Koot – The Fourth Direction is a Punjabi film directed by Gurvinder Singh based on The Fourth Direction and I Am Feeling Fine Now from Indian author Waryam Singh Sandhu’s 2a005 collection Chauthi Koot. Set in Punjab in the aftermath of 1980s, it is a journey to Amritsar that outlines the dilemmas and fears of citizenry trapped in the tussle between Indian Army and Sikh separatists.
A Kannada film directed by Raam Reddy it won the National Award for Best Film in its language. The film is a dramatic comedy and a satire on poverty in the country which shows three generations of sons react to the death of the oldest man in their family. Although the critics have panned the film, its surreal treatment stands it out from the rest. What adds to its subtlety is that it stars non-professional villagers as actors.
Ashar Jaoar Majhe
Winner of two National Awards, it is directed by Aditya Vikram Sengupta and has no dialogues! The film encompasses the daily life of a man and woman, and just how mundane their routine is. They don’t even get to see each other all day because their work timings are different. The film actually mirrors the harsh reality of the lives of the lower middle class in our country and how people can actually be together despite even spending any time with each other.
Feast of Varanasi
A young English teacher arrives at Varanasi, to stay with her aunt. Her stay witnesses a series of gruesome ritual killings, by a murderer who is seeking Moksha. Soon, she learns about her future being tied to the desperate acts of the killer. Written and directed by Rajan Kumar Patel, the film stars Adil Hussain, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Holly Gilbert in lead roles.
Following the story of a developing relationship between father and son, Ringan is a heart-wrenching tale on farmers and their families. Directed by Makarand Mane, the film is a stirring story of unbridled paternal love. The film received the National Award for Best Feature Film, in Marathi, and is yet to be picked up by a distributor for release.
A Death in the Gunj
A Death In The Gunj is Konkona Sen Sharma’s directorial debut project which premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, in September. The film is a “coming of age” story set in 1979, colonial McCluskieganj.
What starts as an uneventful family holiday takes a twist when the guests start playing with the spirits. It is nothing tangible but insinuates its way into the group until the holiday ends in an implosion, resulting in an unavoidable event.