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44th International Film Festival of India

Baga beach and more

 

Amid the works of many masters from around the world, gutsy little cinematic detours held their own and were the flavour of the season at the 44th IFFI, writes saibal chatterjee
SAIBAL CHATTERJEE | Issue Dated: December 8, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : 44th IFFI.Sala Bydha |A Man’s Desire for a Fifth Wife |Vara | The Blessing |Baga Beach |
 
At an international film festival in a place like Goa, what does one look for? Does one chase films by the known masters – the 44th International Film Festival of India includes a section called Masterstrokes and it has names like Bertrand Tavernier, Paolo Sorrentino and Tsai Ming Liang – or does one search for little gems from hitherto unknown sources? There is as much joy in the former pursuit as there is in the latter?
 
But amidst it all, the Sala Budha team was by far the most visible lot in the Old GMC complex in the first week of the 44th International Film Festival of India. But who or what, one might wonder, is Sala Budha? It is the solitary Odia film in the Indian Panorama this year and it was represented at the festival by as many as 40 members of the cast and crew, all attired in blue hand-crafted kurtas. 
 
They were a crowd all right but one that had a certain rustic elan about it. Many of them quickly converted themselves into a folk music band and regaled the delegates. They had the attention of the attendees as long as they played and mingled with the visitors. If that were not enough, they saw to it that every available space in the complex had a standee with a poster of Sala Budha on it. It was the most innovative method of promoting a small film ever seen in IFFI.
 
Sala Budha (The Stupid Old Man), directed by veteran producer-director Sabyasachi Mohapatra, is a black-and-white film that harks back to an era gone by and celebrates the natural gifts of Sambalpur district’s performing artistes.
It tells the story of a British era village headman who belies his affable nature to stand up for the rights and well-being of his people against the vagaries of nature and the tyranny of an insensitive king. Presented as a folklore, the film brings to aspects of a culture that is dying. 
 
Sala Budha has been made by Mumbai-based Mohapatra Movie Magic Pvt Ltd, a production company that is owned and run by six brothers who are proficient in different disciplines of filmmaking and work in tandem with other. Sala Budha is a true ‘family’ production, if ever there has been one.
 
Virtually every major technical role in the making of Sala Budha has been handled by the six incredible siblings. Sabyasachi Mohapatra is the screenwriter and director, Sushanta Mohapatra is the producer. B Chintu Mohapatra is the co-producer, P Mantu Mohapatra is the production designer, Rajendra Mohapatra is the editor and Aum Prakash Mohaptra is the cinematographer. 
 
Says Sabyasachi Mohapatra: “We made the film as a tribute to elderly people and as a means to showcase the language and rich legacy of music and dance of my part of the world.”
 
Adds Chintu Mohapatra, executive producer who has worked with Mani Ratnam and others for nearly two decades: “Sala Budha did not cost much money to make. Even if it does not recover its production cost, it will not threaten our survival.”
 
That explains why the producers could afford to fly so many people down to Goa to make their presence felt at the Indian Panorama screening. “For most of the people who are here with me, this is a very special occasion,” says Sabyasachi Mohapatra.
 

The 44th IFFI has several other unusual breakthroughs. One of the most talked about, if not liked, films screened here is the Dari-language A Man’s Desire for a Fifth Wife, Afghanistan’s first privately-funded film in 66 years.
Written and directed by Sediq Abidi, A Man’s Desire for a Fifth Wife has been produced by Murad Hamidi and Sabruddin Rahmani. “We know the risks we take in making film but we cannot be stopped. This is our life,” says Hamidi.
 
He adds: “Our film isn’t against Islam. It is a statement against violence on women. It debunks the typical social customs that have no place in our society.”
 
Says Rahmani: “We are opposed to the Taliban’s version of Islam. We want an Afghanistan that is free of bigotry and intolerance.” The film may be a spirited effort, but it lacks the finesse that can help it travel around the globe. 
Cinema, which was banned in Taliban-era Afghanistan, is making a steady comeback in the war-ravaged nation, though the process is still slow and painful. Says Abedi: “There are only 20 cinema halls in all of Afghanistan.”
That is way too little for a country that loves cinema but has been deprived of a steady stream of films for a long stretch of time. The internationally feted French-Afghan writer-director Atiq Rahimi, who is in Panjim as a member of the jury headed by Serbian filmmaker Goran Paskaljevic, feels that the lack of infrastructure is holding his country’s cinema back.
 
“But I am really enthused by the energy that I see among the younger lot in Afghanistan. They are making really some wonderful short and documentary films,” he says. “I am hopeful this will translate into something bigger in the years ahead.”
 
Rahimi’s own 2012 film, The Patience Stone, was screened in the Soul of Asia section of the ongoing IFFI. Starring the luminous Paris-bsed Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani in the lead role, it was one of the most lauded films of the festival.
Rahimi is prepping for his next film, a large chunk of which will be shot in the rains of Kolkata. “The rest of the film will be set in Brussels,” says the director who made his debut with Earth and Ashes, an adaptation of his own novel, in 2004.
 
Bhutan’s Khyentse Norbu, the maker of acclaimed films like The Cup and Travellers and Magicians, was back in IFFI with Vara, The Blessing, a beautifully crafted meditation on live, love and devotion.
 
Vara, The Blessing is embellished with music by Nitin Sawhney and has a cast led by Shahana Goswami in the role of the daughter of a temple dancer in rural India.
 
Goa’s home-grown director Laxmikant Shetgaonkar, who announced his arrival to the world with The Man Beyond the Bridge, is back with his third film, Baga Beach, a quirky but focused take on the many issues that confront the coastal state today.
 
Using a candid camera approach for the most part, Shetgaonkar turns his attention to the problems of child sexual abuse, migration and the sense of alienation among local youths. “The idea is to let the world see the darker side of a place is superficially associated with fish, feni and fun,” he explains.
 
He believes that Baga Beach has the potential to be game changer for Goan cinema because it is the state’s first truly global film. “The film has actors from different parts of India and the world,” he says, adding that “it also addresses themes that are universal”.
 
Baga Beach is about the tourist season in Goa and its many ramifications, not all of them salutary. In this season of cinema, it could indeed mark a new beginning for the state’s cinema. Shetgaonkar has done it once before. Hopefully, he will do it again. 
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017