The non feature section of the Indian Panorama category at IFFI this year consists of 21 films on various interesting and thought provoking themes.
‘Gyamo – Queen of the Mountains’ for instance which has been directed by Gautam Pandey and Doel Trivedy focuses on the Gyamo, a female snow leopard and her two cubs, the habitat in the Ladakh region and the people around the place, besides highlighting issues like climate change.
“Two years ago, we were in Ladakh researching on stories and exploring the landscape. During our casual conversations with the locals, words like climate change kept popping up and they also talked about how it is not snowing as much as it used to. We thought of the snow leopard without the snow and it stuck in our heads,” said Pandey. They also realised after interviewing the people that while Ladakh is beautiful and pristine, it has developed deep cracks.
Another film which is part of the line up at the festival, ‘Malai’ has been directed by Rajdeep Paul and Sarmistha Maiti and tells the tale of a young boy of a lower caste who is excited to taste his favourite Malai ice cream at a wedding of the local politician’s son. At the celebration, he discovers the dark side of the grand Indian wedding. “There is a practice prevalent in parts of India, where at affluent people’s weddings those from the lower strata of the society carry lamps on their heads. These are very heavy ranging from 5 to 10kilograms and even 15 kilograms,” said Rajdeep Paul. Maiti and Paul personally witnessed this when they were invited for a friend’s wedding in interior Orissa and saw a mother, who appeared quite weak, with her two-month-old child, carrying this lamp on her head. Her little son standing in front was also holding a lamp on his head. “We were extremely affected by this visual and disturbed by how affluent people like us are completely desensitised to this. It is the treating of fellow humans as sub-humans,” said Paul.
Three years ago they got a chance to do something and make a film on this when Anjam Bose who heads Aurora Film Corporation, one of the oldest film corporations which has produced films by maestros like Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak, wanted to make something on child abuse.
Making the film though had its own challenges especially when it came to the language issue. While the film centred in Orissa, most of the team hails from West Bengal. “We spent six months researching for this film. Also we got real people from the village that actually do this lamp carrying practice to be a part of this film,” said Maiti. Completed in early 2018, the film had its world premiere at the International Film Festival of South Asia, Toronto and has then travelled to festivals like the Chicago South Asian Film Festival, Seatle South Asian Film Festival and Kolkata International Film Festival.
Another film ‘Pamphlet’ by Shekhar Bapu Rankhambe is a movie about a small child who receives a pamphlet that he has to distribute to avoid misfortune. However he doesn’t have money to do this and thus begins to fear ill luck will befall him. The film then follows how the self confident boy slowly begins to change his behaviour. “Just like we now get mobile forwards that tell us to circulate the message, earlier religious associations used to distribute these pamphlets and tell people to circulate these to avoid misfortune. I felt that I had to make a film on this,” said Rankhambe, adding that the film is based on his personal experience.
Speaking about his experience of working with a child in his film, Rankhambe stated that it was a fun experience. “In the beginning, the boy was not ready to act, but later he used to come and look at the shots and then make suggestions on how to improve the scene,” he said, laughing.
Paul also believes that children are the best actors. “They get into the story and are so imaginative that they create their own world. Plus they pick up new languages far more easily than adults,” he said.
Replying to a question on whether they was a need for a special space to screen short films, the filmmakers of the three films agreed that this was a necessity as there was an audience for these. “Broadcasters too, have a responsibility to create a space for these non feature films,” says Trivedi.
As for putting these films online, Paul stated that while this would definitely fetch them an audience, the films have been created for the theatre, and hence certain technicalities in the film would suffer.