The comeback of the Osians-Cinefan Festival brings a ray of hope in the virtual desert of good international cinema defined within the contemporary world. In its 12th edition, Osians-Cinefan continued with explorations in new Indian cinema this year. Shoma A. Chatterji who was a member of the FIPRESCI Jury at the 12th Osians-Cinefan, gives an insider view.
What is NewStream cinema? It is a term coined by the late Mani Kaul for the section of films curated by him for the 11th Osian's Cinefan festival. In the last edition all the films selected belonged to the Hindi Film Industry. The films selected were Kaminey by Vishal Bharadwaj, Dev D by Anurag Kashyap, Luck by Chance by Dibakar Banerjee, Love Aaj Kal by Imtiaz Ali and Aamir by Rajkumar Gupta. These films were chosen on grounds that because through these films, the makers earned both a sympathetic audience in traditional exhibition space for mainstream cinema and broken new cinematographic ground for the Indian film industry.
This year, New Stream cinema had an additional agenda – screening landmark films in cinema. There are Indian films right across this section this year too which features a wonderful cross-section of films that either defy genre definitions or address themselves to relatively unexplored issues or both.
Asked to define what he meant by NewStream cinema, Mani Kaul said, “When movements come into being, the bonds are strong but obviously not tangible or made of
clear definition. Passionate art movements are inevitably in the air, one reason why they also suddenly disappear, unannounced. With filmmakers like Vishal Bharadwaj, Rajkumar Gupta. Dibakar Banerjee, etc. one senses the emergence of a kind of openness that does not fight shy of the literal. With them even metaphorical expression is brought down to a literal plane, shorn of broad symbolic suggestion or typical hidden insinuation common to older cinema.”
The films selected for screening in the NewStream Cinema section this year were–Deool (Marathi) directed by Umesh Kulkarni, Ranjana Ami Ar Asbo Na (Bengali) by Anjan Dutt, Paan Singh Tomar directed by Tigmangshu Dhulia, and Mumbai Diaries or Dhobi Ghat (Hindi) directed by Kiran Rao, Shanghai (Hindi) directed by Dibakar Banerjee and Shoojit Sircar’s Vicky Donor (Hindi). These films are not a part of any competition in the festival.
The uniqueness of these films lie in their ability to work on contemporary issues and subjects that might be delicately balanced between shock and embarrassment for the audience not used to shocking statements on existing, contemporary issues picked out of real life expressed through the conventions of traditional cinema. They are direct, unabashed statements about life in its varied manifestations – individualistic, distinct and unique.
According to the late Kaul, whose films would probably lend themselves to this stream had they been made now, “somehow, the literal in them also becomes a new truth, quite different from and even opposed to notions of truth emanating from the hard moral value system of the old, removed from life and therefore sort of dead in expression in our times.” None of these films make moral judgements on life, society or on the choice the characters within these films make.
Deool (The Temple) directed by Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni is a political satire that focuses on Indian politics and devotion. It charts the transformation of Mangrul, a village in the remotest interiors of Maharashtra while exploring the dangers of turning devotion into a marketable commodity and of soft corruption in general. Deool reminds us about how easy it can be for good people to get caught up in bad things, ignoring the greater good and long term security for a quick buck. The film bagged the National Award for the best feature film (Marathi) and Best Actor Award for Girish Kulkarni.
Anjan Dutt’s Ranjana Ami Ar Asbo Na directed by Anjan Dutt is a mind-blowing musical that celebrates music in all its forms but zeroes in on Bengali Rock where the lyrics are as significant and memorable as the beat, the melody and the rhythm. Music and Abani Sen are the two protagonists of the film, complementing, competing, confronting and challenging each other over their 30-year rocky journey to find and add new meaning to life. In the final round, it is music that wins hands down leaving Abani behind gasping for life in his hospital bed and taking on the new talent Ronjona as the new protégé.
Shoojit Sircar’s Vicky Donor turned out to be a big box office hit though it explored the hitherto-untouched but very bold subject that backs sperm donation by virile young men who have plenty to spare and some more. In an environment where the job pressures are high and couples lead an erratic and unhealthy life style, Dr. Baldev Chaddha runs a fertility clinic and a Sperm Bank in Daryaganj that guarantees high quality and specialized sperm. Unfortunately, he has more failed cases to his credit than successes. A healthy, high performing donor is the need of the hour. Where will he find one? It is one of the most delightful adult entertainers of the year and explores other issues such as inter-regional marriages, woman-headed families, the pain of an infertile marriage and so on with a feather-light touch of wonderful humor.
Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai (Hindi) is a political thriller that creates a somewhat hypothetical thesis of a situation where a small town is poised to become another Shanghai never mind the violation of human rights and killings it brings in its wake. The legendary social activist is diabolically crushed by a drunk truck driver to make it look like an accident. The film follows the journey of three disparate individuals who try to investigate the killing of the activist.
The NewStream session was envisioned as a twofold event which comprised of Conversation with filmmakers, with their actors and technicians as also interaction with the audience and Screening of their latest work under discussion.