“Odisha by and large has remained dormant in the art and cultural space except for Odishi dance form. A state whose centuries old architecture and available documentation speak volumes about the artistic advancement in those eras are hardly noticeable in the present day. The larger outcome of such an apathy is the quality of films coming out of this state. Well, one can easily say that there is hardly anything called cinema here. Be it the coldness of successive state governments in not giving Cinema its due importance or the non-experimenting/non-exploring nature of Odias in general that didn’t give the deserving ones its place – the current lot of films were never supposed to represent Odisha’s diversity and independent thinking.
Film Society of Bhubaneswar was formed 13 years ago to provide a platform to watch World Cinema (which doesn’t mean Hollywood as many cine buffs like to believe in), thereby trying to provide some artistic/cultural nourishment to the malnourished mind and souls of people residing here. And it was received with great response until a few years ago when smartphones destroyed many an ancillary industry/platforms. With member base growing up but audience base falling down drastically FSB somehow managed to float so far. Over the last few years when some more cinema passionate people became part of the society, FSB started gathering some steam although very feebly. In order to boost the taste for good cinema and make people think about how other states have gone ahead in their filmmaking caliber, the idea of having a Film Festival right here in the capital of the State gathered importance. “Indian Film Festival of Bhubaneswar” took birth in order to celebrate the best of contemporary Indian cinema – though the inclination to bring in International films was there, the core team decided on two factors –
- There are Indian film festivals across the globe, but none in India. This would be the only film festival in India focused only on Indian films, and,
- The intention was more to showcase cinema from other Indian states so that a comparative study can be initiative in the form of public opinions.
And to complement the later point – the seven-day festival also hosted 5 panel discussions each day on topics that are plaguing Odia cinema with eminent personalities from various walks of life. In fact, many of the films and filmmakers who were a part of the festival were elated with the fact that this festival will have only Indian films thereby giving a larger space to various regional cinema.
The festival organized several workshops and tête-à-têtes with festival guests having a range of background – from filmmakers to cine journalists, visual artists to academicians, authors and poets. Also, there was one section dedicated to contemporary Odia cinema and one for student short films – curated from across the country. Many young students and enthusiasts of the state who are keen to explore the nuances of filmmaking benefitted a lot with this kind of exposure especially getting the opportunity to know how the contemporary filmmakers across our country are perceiving situations and events around us.
The festival held the retrospective of master filmmaker G. Aravindan with a daily slot to showcase his films all seven days. In fact, Aravindan, also became the central theme for the entire art direction of the festival venue. Rare and unseen cinema stills and images from the sets of his films were gathered and used as art installations for the venue. Bhubaneswar – certainly was up for a unique experience when the sun dawned on 14thFeb. For many couples this was one of the better and enriching venues to celebrate Valentine’s day and spread some genuine love for cinema.
Legendary Indian filmmaker Girish Kassaravalli graced the festival as the Chief guest. He was accompanied by his daughter – Ananya Kassaravalli whose gracefully crafted film “Harikatha Prasange” was part of the festival. Girish ji opened the festival by inaugurating the festival book. “Gaali Beeja”by Kannada filmmaker and visual artist – Babu Eshwar was the opening film of the festival. It followed up with some very interesting QnA with the filmmaker where it was revealed that this non-narrative film struggled for 11 months to get the CBFC certificate as some very knowledgeable person didn’t consider this as a film.
The next days were lines up with some great cinema served on platter where various national and international award winning films were brought to life in front of the audience. The Violin Player, Ottal, Masaan, Thithi, Chauthi Koot, Village Rockstars, Song of the Horned Owl, Court, III Smoking Barrels, Chitrokar, Turup,Odia experimental filmCapital I, Loktak Lairembee – were some of the films that enthralled the audience on all of the seven days. Chidambaram, Thampu, Esthepan, Kanchan Seetawere some of Aravindan’s finest films showcased at the festival. While not to miss out on the artistry of legendary John Abraham Amma Ariyan andCheriyachente Kroora Krithyangal were also made a part of the festival.
Village Rockstarsby Rima Das was one of the more anticipated films for the festival after having made its mark globally. The film’s greatest strength was the fact that it never focussed on an eventful narrative. The star of the film was of course the little protagonist and the various child artistes around her. This film makes the audience believe in the innocent dreams and desires of children irrespective of their socio-economic background and shows how uncomplicated their world views can be.
Chauthi Koot by celebrated filmmaker Gurvinder Singh was another well-known films amongst the cine lovers and it received a great reception to a cinema hungry audience. Set during the peak of Punjab militancy the film reminisced the impact of state actions and the aggression of militant movement on the lives of innocent civilians who on most occasions were left without choice to take a side. Shot beautifully the film’s pacing keeps you in anticipation for the dark night to end.
On the other hand, it was a pleasant discovery for many to come across a film like The Song of the Horned Owlby acclaimed filmmaker Manju Borah. The film also dealt with the time when militancy was on the rise in North East and every night was a painful reminder of a possible dreadful dawn waiting to break. The beautiful North East has been framed aesthetically and there is so much to look forward in this film. Both Chauthi Koot and The Song of the Horned Owlspeak volumes about the tragedy of arms revolution and whimsical actions without being a propagandist film in any way and that is where they both score so high as creative pieces.
Ottal is a film that should be in the checklist of every cinephile. Visually it’s a treat to watch, the characters leave a lasting impression much after the film is over while some of the conversations and dialogs speak deep beyond the stated lines. When the film starts not many would expect the film to become such a personal journey into the backwaters. Those folk songs so merrily being sung by the local community, the detailing on the smallest of activities that are part of daily habits, the philosophical moments stolen out of nondescript lives – all make Ottal a fulfilling and rewarding watch.
Capital I by Amartya Bhattacharyya which also is the first independent film of Odisha was one of the anticipated films in the festival. This dark, surreal psychodrama has also been one of the most celebrated Odia films in the festival circuits with reviews appearing in US, UK and French media. The film deals with the psychological transformation of a young student and her physics professor while doing a research on a missing person who had only left behind some poems, painting and artworks. It makes the viewers reflect philosophically on existentialism and questions many of our pre-conceived notions. Certainly it’s a film that leaves you disturbed as it takes its own time to settle down much after one has watched it.
The student section also had internationally acclaimed and National Award winning films like Kamuki, Afternoon Clouds, Chafa among others. Student films from young and promising Odia filmmakers – Achinha Saba and Al-Kabirahwere also a part of this section. Afternoon Clouds by Payal Kapadia had no definite beginning and end. With subtle hints at abstraction and wonderfully shot frames in the afternoon light it was no surprise that the film had made its mark in international film festivals. Another short film Chafaby Manasi Deodhar was another promising film. Attempting a matured subject like this in great detail by such a young filmmaker is truly commendable.
Burning and must-be-discussedtopics like “Digitization has democratized Cinema”, “Independent Cinema in Odisha”, “The role of literature in Cinema”in the context of Odisha and Odia cinema were brought to the fore as panel discussions with some wonderful and thoughtful minds sharing their critical views. National award winning and acclaimed filmmakers –Manju Borah, Amartya Bhattacharyya, Lipika Singh Darai, film critic Namrata Joshi, photographer Ramu Aravindan (son of legendary G. Aravindan) and independent film producer and actor Swastik Choudhury– were some of the important delegates/festival guests present during the festival.
The seven-day festival concluded very humbly on the 20thof February. The desire to make respectable cinema reach the cinematically deprived people fuelled the passion in a handful of individuals – and with great difficulties the 2018 edition of Indian Film Festival of Bhubaneswar was pulled off – which can largely be concluded as a successful one. Students and people from other walks of life who came watched some brilliantly made Indian films were all thankful for such a meaningful platform. Thanks to some similarly passionate media houses and enthusiastic cine journalist the festival could reach to various corners of the city, albeit, in small pockets.
One can only remain hopeful that this festival in its coming editions prove to be a medium of exploration but for which people from this state need not migrate elsewhere.