Great news coming from the ongoing International Film Festival Rotterdam. Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s film Sexy Durga has won the top award (Hivos Tiger Award) at the main competition section of the fest.
The Hivos Tiger Award is the festival’s flagship competition. This year, eight new films competed for the coveted Hivos Tiger Competition award, which is accompanied by a €40.000 cash prize. The jury admired the film Sexy Durga : “For its daring and resourceful approach in creating a mood of constant tension, providing an insight into multi-layered power dynamics of gender, class and authority.”
Goddess or whore? Two extreme views of women intermingle in this largely improvised spine-chiller. During a nocturnal ride, a young woman and her lover encounter a cross-section of Indian male society. What starts out as an attempt to escape descends into a journey through hell – from which no escape is possible.
This ominous road movie about two lovers on the run is interspersed with footage of a Hindu festival in the southern Indian province of Kerala. Men dance ecstatically, walk across red-hot coals and push metal skewers through their faces. Some are hauled into the air on metal hooks stuck through the skin of their backs and thighs, dangling above the crowd like the mythical eagle Garuda. All in honour of Kali, embodiment of the rage of the mother goddess, Durga. Her likeness – four arms bearing her weapons and a severed head – is carried through the village in procession.
Durga is also the name of a young woman trying in the dead of night to take a train to a far-off destination with her lover, Kabeer. First they have to reach the station, for which they depend on the kindness of strangers. But the help offered to them quickly takes on dubious forms; the police are too involved in their own business and the isolation of the night completes the oppressive atmosphere.
Sanal Kumar Sasidharan made his previous feature film, An Off-Day Game, without a script; for Sexy Durga he even dispensed with a pre-set narrative. Here, he investigates how obsessiveness and worship can quickly degenerate in a patriarchal society into a mentality of oppression and abuse of power.
After completing studies in Zoology and Law, Sanal Kumar Sasidharan (1977, India) started work as a lawyer. As a film fanatic, he used his network to found Kazhcha Film Forum, a crowdfunding platform for the production of independent films. This provided a financial basis to make his own films. Kumar Sasidharan’s short and feature films have received many awards in international film festivals.
Wonder World (2001, short), Parole (2008, short), Frog (2012, short), Oraalppokkam/Six Feet Height (2014), Ozhivudivasathe Kali/An Off-Day Game (2015), Sexy Durga (2017)