The films and talents that have made it to berlinale 2020 from the world’s most ‘productive’ movie industry reflect both depth and diversity. It inspires hope. By saibal chatterjee
It is exciting enough that four titles from the subcontinent are in the Berlin Film Festival programme this year. But no less noteworthy is India’s strong presence in Berlinale Talents 2020.
Six filmmakers and technicians from India – Ivan Ayr, Dominic Sangma, Prantik Narayan Basu, Varun Sasindran, Acharya Venu and Mukul Haloi – besides actor Geetika Vidya Ohlyan–have made the cut. What this denotes is that the pool of new Indian talent capable of making international breakthroughs is expanding.
Most of the selected Indians are already names known on the festival circuit and beyond.
Ivan Ayr’s debut feature Sonireleased on Netflix in early 2019 to positive reviews after premiering in the Orrizonti section of the 2018 Venice Film Festival.Geetika Vidya Ohlyan, the only Indian actor in Berlinale Talents 2020, played the lead role in Soni.
Dominic Sangma, a filmmaker from Meghalaya’s Garo Hills who trained at the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI), Kolkata, began his career with the critically acclaimed Ma’Ama (Moan, 2018). He is now in the process of wrapping up his next film, Rapture, which made the La Fabrique Cinema cut in the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.
Acharya Venu, an SRFTI graduate who lensed Ma’Ama, earned the Asian New Talent Award at the 2019
The timeless story of the proud and beautiful nomadic shepherdess Laila is set against the backdrop of the current Kashmir conflict. A tribute to a very modern female figure, inspired by mystical poetry and traditional songs.
Monkey repellers such as Anjani have an exceedingly tricky job in downtown New Delhi. With the sensitivity of a documentary and an Indian sense of humour, the film depicts the harsh life of a migrant and subtly mirrors today’s social realities
After his father’s disappearance, eight-year-old Dighu seeks refuge from loneliness in his imagination and diary entries. Long continuous shots full of wistful beauty tell a tender tale of coping with change and loss.
They set off, looking for work in far-off places, but disappeared along the way. Inspired by Shiv Kumar Batalvi’s “birha” poetry, the film traces the longing on both sides: on the part of those who are missing, and those that
wait for them to return.
Shanghai International Film Festival for his cinematography in the film. Assamese filmmaker Mukul Haloi, who has the much-lauded short film Days of Autumn and the featurelength documentary behind him, is currently prepping for a fiction feature.
Kerala-born Varun Sasindran, a software engineer-turned-filmmaker who has a master’s degree from the Sarajevo Film Academy has been to Berlinale before. His short film Omarska, which highlighted the horrors heaped upon the victims of the 1992 Bosnian War, was in the Berlinale shorts competition last year.
Film and Television Institute of India-trained Prantik Narayan Basu is another of the Indian filmmakers in this year’s Berlinale Talents who is no stranger to international festivals. In 2017, his short film Sakhisona won a Tiger Award at the International Film Festival of Rotterdam. Basu followed that up with Rang Mahal, which premiered in the Berlin Film Festival in 2019.
Last year, the Kolkata-based director received the Hubert Bals Fund for script and project development of his first narrative feature, Dengue.
As for the quartet of Indian films in Berlinale 2020, it is lead by Pushpendra Singh’s Laila Aur Satt Geet (The Shepherdess and the Seven Songs). The film will compete for three prizes in the newly-introduced Encounters section, which is aimed at supporting “new voices in cinema” and providing “more room to diverse narrative and documentary forms in the official programme.”
Pushpendra Singh’s first feature Lajwanti (The Honour Keeper) played in Berlinale Forum in 2014.
Prateek Vats’ Eeb Allay Ooo!, one of the most remarkable Indian films of the year, will screen in Panorama. It had its world premiere at the Pingyao International Film Festival earlier this year.Eeb Allay Ooo!, a stinging social satire that revolves around the plight of a migrant in Delhi who lands the job that requires him to assume the guise of a langur to scare away the monkeys that pose a menace to government buildings and other locations in the national capital.
Generation Kplus has Marathi director Akshay Indikar’s Sthalpuran (Chronicle of Space). The director’s first film, Trijya (Radius), premiered in the Shanghai International Film Festival in 2019. The self-reflexive Sthalpuran sees life and its challenges through the eyes of an eight-year-old boy.
The Berlinale Shorts programme includes Ekta Mittal’s 29-minute film Gumnaam Din, a film about “missing days from the calendar of Missing people who have left for faraway cities for work”. Guided by Punjabi poet Shiv Kumar Batalva’s ‘birha’ poetry, the film explores “yearnings both from the perspective of the missing and those who wait endlessly”.