When the 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape case came to light, it left the nation shocked and beyond words. Various segments of society came out and expressed their disgust and ire through various media. The case also made filmmaker Dayal Padmanabhan pause and ponder. And he decided to use the medium he knew best to come out with a film around the topic of rape, in what he terms as “the most brutal of crimes”. The result was ‘Ranganayaki’ which is part of the Indian Panaroma section at International Film Festival of India 2019.
“The Nirbhaya incident cast a black shadow on the country. Although prior to this incident there were emergency procedures in place when it comes to handling gang rape victims, after this incident, these were amended. I went through this amendment document and it pushed me to do this film,” said Padmanabhan, adding that he was praying hard for Nirbhaya to live.
In fact Padmanabhan first wrote a novel on this in Kannada, before coming with the film about seven months later. And the title of the film borrows from the 1981 Puttanna Kanagal film of the same name. Padmanabhan added that he in fact was inspired by the latter to make this film too. “I always wanted to make a film like his, but it took me 30 years to do so. The film thus is a tribute to Puttanna,” he said. He added that this is his 17th film and his fifth time at the Indian Panaroma section.
‘House Owner’ director Lakshmy Ramakrishnan, on the other hand is a first timer at IFFI and tells the tale of the unconditional love between an aged couple. However, the husband suffers from Alzheimer’s, living in the past.
“The film is based on a horrific incident during the Chennai floods when a couple was trapped inside their house,” said Ramakrishnan, adding that the main challenge was creating a flood like situation. “For this we had to build a semi underground water tank which could hold up to 12 lakh litres of water every day. Thus we went to a farm to build this,” she said.
Every frame in the film, she added, also has rain in it, and it is this sound of rain that reminds the husband of his past. “The wife then takes on the role of his mother,” she said.
Interestingly, Ramakrishnan has no formal training in directing and for the longest time wasn’t familiar with the world of films either. “Growing up, watching films at home was taboo. Till the age of 15 I had perhaps only seen about four to five films which were themed around god. But I always wanted to tell stories and knew cinema was a powerful medium for this,” she disclosed. It was at the age of 45 that she finally took the plunge into films, although questions of whether she could make it kept plaguing her mind. Today, ‘House Owner’ is her fourth film and with every year she keeps learning something new, she said. Ramakrishnan also made a strong point for the need for more films from a woman’s perspective and the need for more women filmmakers in the industry.
Based on a similar theme of role reversal, ‘Maya’ by Vikas Chandra explores the mother daughter relationship where the daughter becomes the mother after a point.
“Hailing from Patna, I did my higher studies in Delhi University. Every time I returned home during holidays, I realised that my parents had shrunk a bit which was a very tough thing to absorb. That’s where the germ of this film came from,” said Chandra, adding that he fused this with another story of a girl who used to live with her mother. “When she starts looking for a life partner, it is a prerequisite that she will not be able to leave her mother alone. So although she met many likeminded people via matrimonial sites, this condition became a bone of contention and it took her almost five years to find a partner who would agree to that,” he said.
Meanwhile, also a first-timer at IFFI, Aditya Rath’s debut film ‘Photo-Prem’ focuses on a photophobic housewife who realises that she does not have a good photo of herself for people to remember her by after she passes away.
The inspiration for the film came from his mother’s friend who one day got all dressed up to go get her photograph taken in the studio. “There wasn’t any reason behind this. She told us that while youngsters today keep putting up pictures with filters and all, she did not have anything like this and so decided to get a good picture,” said Rath. He further added that when you think about it, pictures are the legacy that we leave behind long after we have gone. Unless we have a picture of a person, we can’t put a face to a story we have heard about the person.
The story for the film was developed by Gayatri Patil while Rath handled the technical part. However, he admitted that they have faced challenges in trying to get their film released for the past six to seven months. “People think it is not very commercial but more personal. But coming to IFFI and seeing a full theatre enjoy the film with us – is the closest we have come to releasing it so far and we hope it goes further,” he said.