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Embedded in The East

Embedded in The East

Brahma Janen Gopon Kommoti lead

The eastern India package in the Indian Panorama of 51st International Film Festival of India’s is a rich mélange of subjects and issues

By Manjulaa Shirodkar

With stories ranging from women conducting Hindu ceremonies and rituals in Bengal – just as regular malepriests do(in Brahma Janen Gopon Kommoti); to tales of survival in the vanishing villages located in the coastal regions of Odisha following climate change(in Kalira Atita); to rediscovering the game of Polo and the sorry state it is in Manipur(with Eigi Kona) through the story of a boy and his pet pony; to the resilience of a young woman attempting to keep abreast of life and its travails in Assam(in Bridge); to Revisiting Satyajit Ray through Avijatrik– a sequel to Apu’s Trilogy, the eastern India package in the Indian Panorama of 51st International Film Festival of India’s (IFFI 2020) is a rich mélange of subjects.

Satyajit Ray's movies

The 51st edition of International Film Festival of India also pays rich tributes to one and only Satyajit Ray on his birth centenary celebrations, by showcasing five classics from his repertoire. These are Pather Panchali, Sonar Kella, Charulata, Shatranj Ke Khiladi and Ghaire Baire. While this is a great move, one does wish that the organisers had sourced some of his rarer works which a lot of audiences may have missed. But given the tough times currently, it’s laudable effort nonetheless.

Avijatrik PosterWhat cineastes’ should look out for is Avijatrik(The Wanderlust of Apu) – a film by Shubrajit Mitra who once again revisits Bibhutibhushan Bandhopadhyay’s famed world of Apu – created unforgettably by Ray. Part of the Indian Panorama, Avijatrik attempts to rekindle memories of Ray through his style and treatment in the film. With beautiful black and white imagery, a gentle pace and leisurely treatment Apu returns after six decades in Avijatrik – a sequel to Apu Trilogy.

Together with Ray’s own films being showcased this time, the comparison with the doyen would be inevitable for Mitra. His is certainly a brave attempt, given that the scales are heavily tilted. One does wish, though, that Mitra had come up with a more individualistic work and interpretation of Bandhopadhyay’s novel but he (like many others) is only trying to live upto the emotional legacy left behind by Ray.

Speaking of individualism, the national and international award-winning filmmaker Nila Madhab Panda makes a powerful statement with Kalira Atita, on displacement of those staying in the coastal villages of Odisha, and who are forced to evacuate whenever cyclones (occurring more and more frequently due to climate change) hit their villages.

Kalira Atita posterWith the rest of the village empty, a lone man attempts survival with hardly anything available at his disposal. The story that borders on pathos and angst of one who is lost and his longing for life brings home the reality of climate change which most of us seem to be ignoring despite being aware.

The Homage section of IFFI 2020 also pays homage to not one but three of Odisha’s well known cultural icons. Bijay Mohanty’s debut Chilika Teerey and Ajit Das’ Tara will be screened in Goa. Tara which had won the National Award in 1992 will be screened on Das’ birthday i.e. January 20. Both Mohanty and Das were alumni of National School of Drama, Delhi and passed on last year. Bhija Matira Swarga, the last film by the accomplished Odia filmmaker Manmohan Mahapatra, will also be screened at IFFI.

Manipur this year is represented by two films –a feature film Eigi Kona by Bobby Wahengbam and Highways of Life– a non-feature film by Amar Maibam. Eigi Kona is about a relationship between Thawaei, a young polo player and his pony whom he tends to with a lot of affection. Directed by Bobby Wahengbam, the film takes a look at the sorry state of affairs of Polo in its place of birth, Manipur. The proponents of the game and their ponies lead a miserable life because of poverty and loss of livelihood. By focusing on Thawaei, the film takes a bigger look at how the spirit of the game is lost because of poverty. Individual ambitions mean little when there is no food to eat.

Eigi Kona still

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Highways of Life, the non-feature film from Manipur takes a look at truckers ferrying essentials on the state’s unreliable highways, ferrying essentials to serve the local populace. Produced by Films Division and directed by Amar Maibam, Highways of Life won the Best Film at the Liberation DocFest 2020, in Dhaka.

Brahma Janen Gopon Kommoti posterBrahma Janen Gopon Kommoti (Brahma Knows My Secret) is a debut film by Aritra Mukherjee about a woman priest who conducts rituals like any other priest would. And all is well till she marries and her husband and his family realise who she is. As the film’s plot shifts between extremes of ritualism – juxtaposing superstition alongside the more rational approach to prayer, it brings to the fore several sensitive issues, including a mention of the Sabrimala controversy; why kanyadaan(giving away of the bride by her parents to her husband) should not happen and more. Starring Ritabhari Chakraborty, Soham Majumdar, and Soma Chakraborty, the film is a one time watch for sure.

With such delectable fare on board, make sure you book your ticket to the film – either online or offline, and enjoy good cinema at 51st IFFI, Goa.


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  • One has to have solid knowledge about movies and movie making to write so nicely about each movie. Very impressive review.

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