Sunday, April 5, 2009

REFLECTIONS OF THE SUBCONTINENT AT THE GULF FILM FESTIVAL: Focus on India Segment Offers Cross-Section of Indian Short Cinema

Dubai: April 5, 2009: The Gulf Film Festival (GFF), held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), is an excellent opportunity for UAE residents to sample the cinematic offerings of the GCC and points beyond.

This year the festival, as part of its In Focus programming segment will focus on short films from India. In addition to offering cross-section of short films from established and emerging directors, there will be a panel discussing independent and short production in the subcontinent, followed by the screenings.

The panel will comprise Kiran V Shantaram, Director of Rajkamal Studios, V Shantaram Productions Pvt Ltd, Plaza Theatre, Mumbai and National Film Development Corporation Ltd, (NFDC); veteran film critic Sudhir Nandgaonkar, the Third Eye Asian Film Festival director; Pranav Ashar, President of film distribution company Enlighten, and filmmakers Anand Gandhi, director of Right Here Right Now, and Umesh Kulkarni, director of Three of Us, who also contributed his feature film Valu the Bull to the Dubai International Film Festival 2008.

The films in the section give a sample of the many outlooks, techniques and narrative themes in Indian independent production. Many are tales of survival against hardship: Three of Us, by Umesh Kulkarni, introduces Yogendra, who is confined to bed due to severe disability. Ganga Mukhi’s Punha (Yet Another Day) follows an old village vendor who finds no takers for his wares. In despair, he throws his goods in the river but life goes on, and so must the struggle for survival. In Kshitif (A Far Horizon), by Binitesh Baruri, a destitute trumpet player knows that his only hope is to sell off his trumpet and go to the city with his wife, but doubts if he has the will. Umesh Kulkarni’s Girni (The Grinding Machine) introduces Little Samir, his widowed mother and grandfather who have lost their mental peace to the noisy grinding machine that provides their livelihood.

Gitanjali Rao’s animated short Printed Rainbow concerns an old woman and her cat who live alone, but explore many magic worlds with the help of the woman’s collection of matchboxes. In Kshya Tra Ghya (XYZ), by Amit Dutta, a boy tells a story that he invents while narrating. The film is structured as a riddle and the answer to the riddle is another riddle or a story. Bejoy Nambiar’s Rahu weaves the lives of a motley bunch of protagonists together in tragic circumstances, under the gaze of one of the most destructive planets - Rahu. Amit Dutta’s Kramasha (To Be Continued) shows a boy who is sleeping, yet awake. A mysterious man with a black coat comes each morning. The boy has seen the man before - in his dreams.

A philosophical tone suffuses some of the selections: Plot, by Abhijit Mazumdar, is a small part of a bigger story that attempts to understand the vulnerability of human existence. The Cabin Man, by Ashish Pandey, asks: is there a destination in life? Is there life beyond a destination? Anand Gandhi’s Right Here, Right Now, a young man triggers a cycle of sorrow and joy simultaneously. Through 15 characters and 17 locations, the cycles meet to a conclusion that explains the absurdities of life. Khushboo Ranka and Anand Gandhi’s Continuum puts forth five moments of childlike innocence that culminate in a climax where they form the cosmic fabric itself.

There are also several offerings that contain dramatic narratives that address human relationships: Haravilele Indradhanush (The Lost Rainbow), by Dhiraj Meshram, addresses guilt: Sameer steals his brother Nitin's marbles and hides them in a tree. Years later, he returns the marbles to Nitin’s son. Chab Wali Pocket Watch (The Pocketwatch), by Vibhu Puri, shows an old Urdu poet struggling to keep the musical Hindustani language alive. From the UK, Amit Kumar’s The Bypass is the story of two men who ambush a car, kill the passengers, and steal the belongings. As they cross the hills, we discover they are not the only criminals in the area. Sanju Surendran’s Theeram (Sea Shore) explores the father-daughter relationship.

Several of the films are co-productions that offer interesting perspectives on India: from France, Do Dil (Two Heart), by Aatish Basanta, concerns the aftermath of family pressures on a loving relationship. India-US coproduction Birju, by Heeraz Marfatia, narrates the untold stories behind every photograph that slip through the confines of frame. Andheri is a US-India coproduction by Sushrut Jain in which Anita, a live-in maid, works in a Mumbai home but decides to run away and take her chances in the unknown big city.

The GFF will be held from April 9 to 15 and brought by the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) in association with Dubai Studio City. For further information, please consult the festival website on

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