Archive for the ‘Film Festival’ Category

QALANDAR

Qalandar* – A 35 year old man from a village in Punjab (India) has to learn riding a Bicycle to get closer to his fleeting dream. A dabbler by nature. Music, cinema and books interest him, and thus, make him a complete misfit in his village and family.

His age and intellect becomes his biggest roadblock in learning cycling and such a trivial pursuit becomes the chase of his life.

To live up to his name, he has to find his way or his way would find him.

(*Qalandars are wandering ascetic Sufi dervishes)

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What does it takes to shoot a Short Film? A device, which is in your hand most of the times. In my case, it is my first independent film, (Director/Producer) so its pure courage. And sometimes, courage is more important than talent.

The thought of Qalandar has been living inside me for quite a few years. There’s a whole charm of riding a bicycle and why it seems like magic, when you balance a bicycle. You are actually defeating gravity in a way. I myself learnt it quite late in my life. I remember my Uncle reacted to this story idea by quoting Albert Einstein. “Life is just like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

The whole genesis of this film originated from a thought of someone not being able to do something very basic and is too old to even attempt that. Something, which can define your existence and masculinity. For the milieu, it was always a friend’s, (Kulwinder Harshaai)  home in Punjab, which came to my mind. I wanted to treat it like a feature film or my first step towards making a feature length film. One thing I was sure about that it has to be in the countryside, or it was my own aversion to cityscape which was also responsible for my location choice.

My friend Kulwinder Harshai, Creative Producer, apart from being my link to this village named Guruharsahai (in Ferozepur District of Punjab) is also the one on whom the protagonist of my story is based.  This film wouldn’t have been possible without him. He just opened the doors of his home and heart, and let us all in! From locations, sets, actors, accommodation, food & country made liquor to music, vocals and the dialogues of the film.

Though an independent film but I approached every department from the feature’s perspective. I was lucky the first technician who I shared the script with, came on board as the cinematographer, and Mihir Desai also ended up becoming my Co-Producer. This has been the best casting of the film!

Now our main objective was how we are going to tell the story on screen. I wanted to explore Punjab beyond the clichés of pop culture like mustard fields, hospitality, handsome men, bhangra, food & flamboyance. The Punjab etched up in my mind did have all this but primarily it had a serene and placid feel to it, which I’ve attempted to capture in the visual narrative.

I myself a product of pop-culture but my biggest grouse with it is that it never exercises its power to propagate the hidden gems of any culture; and is only interested in ‘selling’ culture as commodity. The land of five rivers, including the part in Pakistan, has given us poets like Shiv Kumar Batalavi, Paash, Amrita Pritam and Sahir Ludhanvi to name a few. And, if we delve deeper into the history Baba Farid, Bulleh Shah and Guru Nanak. I’ve seen Batalwi & Paash’s books being sold at popular places like bus stations in Punjab but the pop-culture chooses not to mention it at all!

Film making is a collaborative art, I knew and had seen it in the best of professional set ups in Bombay. And it’s ‘magic’ too, I saw this happening every day. The way one by one whole village came together to make sure Qalandar moves! Dev Verma, my associate, ushered them all from our side incredibly – from recording sync sound to making sure we cover everything on time.

The villagers never said ‘no’! The most beautiful example of this collaboration is the scene, when Qalandar is pushing the bicycle uphill. This hill, which we all called “Dali’s Hill” was made accessible by villagers. I guess the ‘Spirit’ scored over logistics or it was simply Punjabiyat, as we all say back home!

Since the story idea was based on Kulwinder’s life I had decided to cast him only as Qalandar…But as I got into the pre-production I realized, thankfully, I could either burden his gentle shoulders as an actor or a creative producer, not both, and I chose the latter.

Siddharth Sen, a professional actor based in Bombay, came on board as Qalandar. Siddharth transformed into Qalandar effortlessly and his quiet charm warmed up all of Kulwinder’s family, who were part of the film’s main cast. Siddharth, a keen observer just absorbed everything around him and that reflects in the subtler nuances of the film. The reason for casting Kulwinder’s family was essentially budget and equally the fact that raw actors bring certain truth to their performances which technically correct ones may not be able to!

Working with all of them was absolute pleasure. I just had to share the gist of moment with them and often capture the magic, or was it truth? This film is a combination of good accidents also. Qalandar’s Chacha, who works in the fields as a supervisor is an 80 year old man. He was one actor who improvised and was cracking jokes off camera! A real Qalandar!

Somi, who plays Qalandar’s nephew and confidante in the film is a trained Physiotherapist in Faridkot, Punjab. His love for Alia Bhatt and social media has become a part of my narrative as well. How Somi came up with his own lines, which became dialogues of the film is also memorable!

We finally managed to finish Qalandar’s shoot in five days. The film was edited on my personal laptop “Macbook Pro” with the help of my editor, John Joseph, and it took me six months of post-production to finish the film, since, I was working on Aamir Khan’s Secret Superstar simultaneously as a Script Supervisor. Indirectly it was my assignment with Aamir Khan Productions, which made Qalandar see light of the day!

We had a 35 minute long first cut, which was brought to 26 minutes. Now we decided to abandon editing the film and finalizing it. Mandar Kamalapurkar (Sound Designer) brought a certain kind of finesse and texture to the film. Mandar’s expertise took the film to another level! He was patient and professional at the same time.

Finally there are few names, which still helped this film but I cannot define their role. Pallavi Pethkar (Poster Design), Collin D’cunha (Talent Sourcing), Mohit Sharma (Ambal Productions), Shipan Vyas (Vfx), Mahak Gupta (DI), Priyarth Mukherjee, Kedar Sonar and Kasbah Digital. My apologies to those who are in my heart but my brain fails to recall!

To live up to his name he has to find his way or his way would find him: We too are on our way, it seems!

– Rohit Sharma

Qalandar premieres for the world on 3rd May, 2017 at the New York Indian Film Festival, New York. So if you are in NY, do catch it.

Screening info:
3rd May 6:15pm
Village East Cinema, New York, New York.

(Qalandar was also Shortlisted in MAMI Film Festival, 2016 (Mumbai) under Large Shorts Category. Winner of Best Screenplay- Jury in Indian World Film Festival, 2017 (Hyderabad, India), Official Selection, New York Indian Film Festival 2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cannes Film Festival has announced the official selection of shorts for the 70th edition of the festival. Payal Kapadia’s short film, Afternoon Clouds, has been selected for the Cinéfondation forum.

Payal is a third-year student of direction at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune. Her 13-minute short film is among 16 films chosen, from among 2,600 works submitted this year.

Afternoon Clouds depicts a 60-year old widow, who lives with her Nepali maid, Malati. The entire movie revolves around a single afternoon in their house. This film features Usha Naik and Trimala Adhikari.

A jury presided over by Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu will decide the winners. The three Cinéfondation prizes will be awarded at a ceremony preceding the screening of the prize-winning films on Friday 26th May in the Buñuel Theatre.

The 2017 edition of Berlin International Film Festival has come to an end and the awards were declared tonight. Some good news for two Indian films at the Berlinale – Amit Masurkar’s Newton and Amar Kaushik’s Aaba.

Newton was given the CICAE Art Cinema Award in the Forum section of the fest. The “Confédération Internationale des Cinémas d’Art et d’Essai” (C.I.C.A.E.), the International Confederation of Art House Cinemas, forms one jury for the Panorama and one for the Forum. Each jury awards one prize in its section. Pedro Barbadillo, Tanja Milicic and Rainer Wothe were in the jury panel for Forum section.

CICAE was founded in 1956 by the national art house cinema associations of Germany, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland as an international lobby or pressure-group in order to support the art cinema sector and to protect the cinematographic diversity against the supremacy of so-called commercial filmmaking. Since then it unites about 3000 independent as well as already nationally associated art house cinemas, 15 festivals and a certain number of film distributors from approximately 30 countries from all over the world in an international umbrella association.

The Art Cinema Award is awarded twelve times a year to art house films at certain cooperating festivals such as the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes, Panorama and Berlin International Film Festival in Berlin and the Venice Film Festival.

Amar’s Kaushik’s Aaba has been awarded the Special Prize of the Generation Kplus International Jury for the Best Short Film. This includes cash award of  € 2,500 by the Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk (The Children’s Charity of Germany). The jury noted that it tells a story of the circle of life in an elegiac and slow pace with a beautiful cinematography.

Amit Masurkar’s new film Newton had its world premiere at the ongoing Berlin International Film Festival. Here’s all the buzz about the film from the fest.

(click on any of the pic to start the slide show)

Finding humour in the tenuous nature of democracy might be a hard task on the global stage at present; however, in Newton’s darkly comic exploration of one official’s attempt to uphold the election process in India, it’s simpler than it sounds. The second film from writer/director Amit V Masurkar bows in Berlinale’s Forum section with a sense of chaos and absurdity, while remaining aware of the drama of reality. When the feature emphasises either extreme, it proves engaging viewing.

–  From Screen Daily’s review. Click here to read the full review.

– Rajeev Masand’s video-blog on the film –

 

Newton is a very important film, despite its satirical tones, laced with a lot of humour and irony. It is a film that should make viewers think about how important their right to cast a vote is.

– from Aseem Chhabra’s report on the film. Click here to read the full report

Newton is a brave attempt. Because it uses the feature film format to tell a story about on-going violence and exploitation and cynical political aggrandisement : anytime you hear the words Naxal, or Maoist in a film, it falls into the tried and tested formula. Newton breaks that mould, refreshes hardened tropes, and makes us smile and think. Really hard. Because what effects India Interior today will one day ripple over and claw its way into our complacent urban, mall-infested enclaves.

– from Indian Express. Click here to read the full report.

– Some tweets on the film:

(pics taken from Twitter)

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.”

Trailer

Official Synopsis

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.

Director

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.

Filmography

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)

 

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More good news coming from Berlin International Film Festival. Two more Indian features have been selected for this year’s edition.

Amit V Masurkar’s sophomore feature Newton is all set to make its World Premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival. The Drishyam Films produced feature will be screened in the ‘Forum’ section of the Berlinale which features ‘avant-garde, experimental works, political reportage and yet-to-be-discovered cinematic landscapes’.

Newton was part of the Co-Production Market (CPM) at Film Bazaar, 2015 and also one of the Film Bazaar Recommends titles at Film Bazaar 2016. The film stars Rajkummar Rao in the title role and is a sharp political black comedy that takes place on an election day in Central India. Rajkummar Rao plays Newton, a rookie clerk on election duty in a conflict-ridden jungle of Chhattisgarh, who tries his best to conduct free and fair voting despite the apathy of security forces and the looming fear of an attack by Maoist rebels. The supporting cast includes Anjali Patil, Pankaj Tripathi and Raghubir Yadav. 

lady of the lake

The second film, Haobam Paban Kumar’s Manipuri film Loktak Lairembee (Lade Of The Lake) is also selected in the same ‘Forum’ section of the fest. The film has been doing the fest rounds for quite some time now and was also the winner of top prize in the India Gold section of Mumbai Film Festival.

Haobam has 5 National Film Awards and 5 Indian Panorama Selections to his credit. The film Loktak Lairembee (Lady of the lake) is his debut fiction feature film.

Here’s the official synopsis of the film –

Loktak Lake is a unique ecosystem where fishermen lived in huts built on floating biomasses. In 2011, the authorities, in the name of protecting serenity of the ecosystem, burnt down the huts leaving thousands of fishermen homeless. Tomba, one of the victims, lives with a harrowing nightmare of looming displacement since then. He is haunted by seamless fear of further intervention of authorities that would make him homeless forever. Confined in his makeshift hut, Tomba senses the spirit of evil around, while his wife Thambalsang works hard to make their living. One fine morning Tomba accidentally finds a gun hidden within the biomass. He marvels with the gun as his power of self-protection. He transforms himself to an assertive man who is looking for an appropriate offense. One day, an old lady who mysteriously wanders in the lake, knocks at his door in the middle of the night. Fearful Tomba, anticipating the lady as the spirit of all evils, chases her and commits an unintended crime.

Trailer

Filmmaker Amar Kaushik’s short film, Aaba has been selected for 67th Berlin International Film Festival which will run from 9-19th February, 2017. The film will premiere in the Generation Kplus category of the fest.

Interestingly, Amar’s mother, Shashi Kaushik has written the story. It revolves around an orphan girl who comes across the news of her grandfather reaching the terminal stages of lung cancer. As the grandfather (Aaba) starts counting his days, the family faces unexpected turns.

The film has been shot in the picturesque valley of Arunachal Pradesh. Aaba is produced by Raj Kumar Gupta and Mitul Dikshit, and co-produced by Onir and Alison Welly.

Earlier, Jayaraj Rajasekharan Nair’s Ottaal, Nagesh Kukunoor’s Dhanak, and Avinash Arun’s Killa have premiered in the same category of the fest.

Click here to read about the shooting experience of Aaba.