Lost Time Fragments my Area of Work

admin   February 20, 2020

Mesmerised by the past, noted Indian Director and Screenwriter Mukul Haloi loves to dig like an archaeologist to uncover all the little fragments of time, one layer after another, and then reimagining them as a whole Interview with Mukul Haloi

Looking forward to meeting and collaborating with composers, sound designers, script mentors and co-producers, noted Director and Screenwriter Mukul Haloi has high hopes from Berlinale 2020, which he is attending as one of the Berlinale Talents from India. Haloi after a number of successful short and experimental films such as ‘Loralir Sadhukath’, for which he was given the Bala Kailasam Memorial Award, talks about his first feature-length fictional debut and his other future plans in a candid conversation with Pickle Congrats you are part of Berlinale Talents 2020.

What is your objective and what do you aim to achieve at Berlinale this year?

Thank you. I am very much looking forward to attend the event and communicate with other talents from around the world, to discuss and innovate on new thoughts and understandings about contemporary films. I am particularly looking at meeting people who are interested in Asian films, more specifically from South Asia. As I have been developing a film, I want to make use of this platform to collaborate with technicians such as composers and sound designers and also expecting to meet script mentors and co-producers.

What are the current projects that you are working on?

I’m developing my debut feature film. It’s in the research and development stage. The film is going to be in my mother tongue Assamese. It is based upon a popular Assamese folk story. Apart from this, I’m gearing up for a short film which I expect to shoot by this summer. Also, post-production of my second docu-feature is going on.

Any surprise at ‘Parasite’ winning script and screenplay in Oscars? Also, a non-English film has been bagging Best Picture award.

Looking at the trends over the years, I think it is not very surprising that ‘Parasite’ has globally made an impact and found an acceptance among moviegoers all over the world.

Is being an academic helps you as director and scriptwriter?

I’m not so much into academics, but I teach film in independent workshops and also write about them. It helps me to constantly question my own practices and further deepen my understanding of films. Directing films is not just a craft, but also a responsibility to do justice to your own thoughts and ideology. So, I feel that writing, teaching or reading keeps me in a conflicted territory of thoughts, which help me to create something.

There has been a phenomenal change in the popular Indian cinema with content-based films working well and commercial hits falling in numbers? What are your thoughts?

It’s a good sign. We as viewers have been exposed to so many film cultures of the world that now we can identify and choose our own subjects. Maybe, that’s why cinema with strong content or subjects is getting acceptance. Also, regionally there are so many good films getting produced. Specially, I am very much intrigued about the films coming out of Kerala, which are fresh, powerful and commercially viable too.

Personal remembrance seems to be your forte in your works.

The past mesmerizes me. Remembering it is an archaeological process—digging one layer after another; finding bits and pieces of markers to a time; accumulating them and then making a whole to imagine the time we have lost in fragments. Those fragments are my area of work.

There is so much of talent coming out from north East? Do you see visible change on ground?

We can see viewers’ acceptance of new experiments and mode of thinking,
though not so significant. In the last five years, there have been many films made by new filmmakers and they all are thematically and aesthetically and linguistically/ ethnically varied. To talk specifically about Assam, some films carry the neorealist practice of Jahnu Barua, but in a refurbished way. ‘Village Rockstars’ by Rima Das is one of such films. There have been another set of films which reflect on the insurgency-torn time of Assam. Jaicheng Dohoutia’s ‘Handuk’, Reema Borah’s ‘Bokul’ are prominent ones in this thematic classification. There has also been a resurgence of films in different languages. Rabha, Mishing, Bodo, Moran, Karbi—all these languages are now getting a place in films.

Few more film-makers who are creating new modes of expression are Bhaskar Hazarika, Deep Chowdhury, Kenny Basumatary, etc. Who has been your major influence in filmmaking?

There have been many. But among filmmakers — Yasujiro Ozu, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Hao Hsiao hsien are three names that stand out.

Finally, what are the goals you have set yourself in this decade?

I haven’t planned it for so long… But I want to make as many films as possible. One film every year would be great if possible. Also, I have been thinking over setting up something to inculcate film awareness and education in school children in Assam, which I will begin soon starting with my own village. Also, I am planning to publish my first collection of essays in Assamese by this year.


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Seven Indian Indie Filmmakers To Watch

admin   August 30, 2019

Fabulous & Fantastic

Aamis (Ravening)

Assamese writer-director Bhaskar Hazarika is a cinematic fabulist whose sensibility is anything but ordinary. His two films, Kothanodi (River of Fables) and Aamis (Ravening), foray into zones of consciousness that border on the bizarre (in the case of the former) and the macabre (in the latter) even as they remain unwaveringly humanistic.

Bhaskar Hazarika

Kothanodi drew upon a compendium of Assamese folk tales to narrate four stories blending the fabulous and the fantastic to throw light on the human condition. The film had its world premiere in Busan. Aamis, the story of a young man drawn towards an older woman via their love for meats of all kinds – a forbidden relationship that triggers a chain of acts of self-destruction. The Aamis premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Distinctive Approach

Khanaur (Bitter Chestnut)

Only two narrative features old, Gurvinder Singh, a filmmaker with a distinctive approach to the medium, is already close to achieving the status of a master. His first film, Anhe Ghore Da Daan (Alms for a Blind Horse, 2011), premiered in Venice. His second, Chauthi Koot (The Fourth Direction), made it to the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard competition.

Gurvinder Singh

The two Punjabi-language films, adapted from literature, were richly textured, quietly engaging portraits of common people dealing with socio-political and historical forces beyond their control. The Mani Kaul protégé has been running a café in the tiny town of Bir, Himachal Pradesh for several years. His next film, Khanaur (Bitter Chestnut), which is expected to premiere in one of the major festivals later this year, is a personal “insider’s take” on the lives of the ordinary folks of a place in flux owing to its transformation into a paragliding hub.

Going Beyond Stories

Chola

Half a decade is all that the 42-year-old lawyer-turned-filmmaker has taken to carve a niche for himself. Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s combative films, which have fetched him numerous international and state awards since his first feature, the crowd-funded Oralpokkam (Six Feet High, 2014), go beyond mere stories. They engage at a very deep level with contemporary social and political issues.

Sanal Kumar Sasidharan

Chola, his fifth feature and the sole Indian film in the official line up of the 76th Venice International Film Festival, is no different. It expands upon his concern with individuals dealing with collective attitudes and prejudices in a complex society. It, however, represents a break from his previous four films. Chola is two hours long – the longest of Sasidharan’s films thus far – and features mainstream Malayalam cinema stars, Nimisha Sajayan and Joju George, both of whom picked up acting prizes in the 2019 Kerala State Film Awards. Sasidharan’s S Durga won the Hivos Tiger Award at the International Film Festival of Rotterdam in 2017.

Capable Talent

A Death in the Gunj

Actress-filmmaker Konkona Sen Sharma has yet to chalk out plans for her sophomore directorial outing, she is one talent capable of springing surprises both behind and in front of the camera. Her maiden film, A Death in the Gunj, as fine a film as any Indian first-timer has ever made, premiered in TIFF in 2016.

Konkona Sen Sharma

One of her earliest films as an actor, Shonali Bose’s Amu, in which she played the titular role, also screened in Toronto. She is currently prepping for a web series that she is slated to direct on the life and times of Arati Das, who was known as Kolkata’s queen of cabaret in her heydays. The show will be set against the social and political backdrop of 1960s and 1970s Bengal. The series is expected to go on the floors early next year. That rules out the likelihood of Sen Sharma delivering a new big screen film in 2020. She is nonetheless one Indian filmmaker whose progress as a director will be followed with keen interest.

Strong Cinematic Sense

Iewduh

The world is likely to soon hear a great deal more of the maverick Meghalaya filmmaker Pradip Kurbah. A two-time National Award-winner, he is all set to catapult his native language, Khasi, on to the global cinema stage. His third narrative feature, Iewduh, set in the entrails of the largest market in the northeastern hill state and filmed with sync sound, is due to emerge in a major international festival soon. Kurbah’s first two films, RI: Homeland of Uncertainty and Onaatah: Daughter of the Earth, fetched him unstinted awards and accolades.

Pradip Kurbah

Amrit Pritam, who works closely with Oscar-winner ResulPookutty, is the sound designer of the film. A director rooted in his milieu and endowed with a strong cinematic sense, he has already earned a fan following in his home state and other parts of India. Iewduh, which promises to be the next big leap in his career, could be the beginning of a new chapter.

Worldwide Waves

Ma’ama (Moan)

An alumnus of the Kolkata-based Satyajit Ray Film and Tele­vision Institute, Dominic Sangma, who makes films in the Garo language, is another Meghalaya filmmaker who has begun to make waves worldwide. His debut feature, Ma’ama (Moan), a deeply personal film that probes loss and longing from the standpoint of an old man – the director’s father – grieving for his long-deceased wife, instantly marked him out as a storyteller of exceptional depth.

Dominic Sangma

Ma’ama was the only Indian film to earn a slot in the International Competition of the 2018 Jio MAMI Film Festival. Sangma’s second film, Rapture, was one of ten projects from across the world select­ed for mentoring by filmmaker Mira Nair in the La Fabrique Cinemaprogramme hosted by InstitutFrancais as a part of the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.

Striking Voice

Super Deluxe

A Tamil filmmaker waiting to be discovered by the world, Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s two films – the neo-noir gangster film Aaranya Kaandam (2011) and the multi-plot drama Super Deluxe (2019) – have established him as one of the most strikingly voices working in Chennai today.

Thiagarajan Kumararaja

Aaranya Kaandam was in the making for several years, ran into trouble with India’s censor board and eventually under performed at the box office. But the film’s appeal has grown steadily – it now enjoys cult status. Kumararaja’s second film, Super Deluxe, proved beyond doubt that here was a fearless filmmaker capable of weaving pure magic with ideas, plot twists and images. The film orchestrates its multiple strands with awe-inspiring skill and an unfailing sense of drama that draws its strength from being both provocative and entertaining.