Everything you need to know about the 11th Indian Film Festival of Bhubaneswar

The movies of the Indian Film Festival of Bhubaneswar are being screened at the Odissi Research Centre. For the schedule, check out their Facebook page 
Logo of Indian Film Festival of Bhubaneswar | (Pic: IFFB)
Logo of Indian Film Festival of Bhubaneswar | (Pic: IFFB)

To remind the audience that there are films that initiate thought-provoking dialogue and talk local and still have global relativity (though the said films don't necessarily fall under the 'mainstream' category), the eleventh edition of the Indian Film Festival of Bhubaneswar (IFFB) comes to Bhubaneswar again. It begins with the glorious Marathi movie Namdev Bhau on January 23, paying tributes to the recently deceased Odia filmmaker Manmohan Mohapatra and the late Mrinal Sen along the way, while concluding with yet another master auteur's film, Goutam Ghosh's Raahgir. Resplendent with readings, conversations and even an open house with the India Foundation for the Arts, this year, the Film Society of Bhubaneswar (FSB) really is stepping up its game with IFFB. And they had a lot of support from Kerala State Chalachitra Academy, National Film Archives of India, MovieSaints and India Foundation for the Arts along the way. We spoke to some noted directors whose movies were screened to talk about their work and what went into it.

For his very first film, a horror anthology titled Kothanodi, director Bhaskar Hazarika won the National Award for Best Feature Film in Assamese in 2015. And with his second film, Aamis, he has won the praise of international film festivals and appreciation of critics and audiences alike. Not just this. Famed director Anurag Kashyap appealed to people to "not miss" this movie when it was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. It even drew a hat tip from the director of Udaan, Vikramaditya Motwane, and from the director of the runaway hit Andhadhun, Sriram Raghavan, as well.

For Aamis, Hazarika received a Post Production Grant from the Asian Cinema Fund

Hazarika, who holds a Master's in Film and Drama from the University of Reading, England, is drawn to absurd ideas and thus, when the idea of the sweet love story - which develops between a married paediatrician and a young PhD student over their shared appreciation of meat -  came to him in early 2017, he did not hesitate to work on it. "It is based on my general observation of romance and what happens if the physical quotient is taken out of the equation. I also explore the ideas of punishment, morality and sin," says the director who shot the film in 34 days. Though there is no social commentary piggybacking on the story of an unconventional love, as the auteur informs us, we were wondering if a love story around meat itself has a certain subtext to it. "Oh no, in the mainland, consuming meat might mean a great deal, but in the Northeast, we eat whatever we want," he says, though he does admit that he might not be a food connoisseur but he does like good food.

With him and Rima Das, best known for Village Rockstars, India's official entry for the Oscars in the year 2018, leading the pack when it comes to the narratives emerging from the Northeast, especially Assam, we wonder what really enabled this state that is known for its silk and tea, to get on the world map when it comes to movies. "It is so much cheaper to make films now and even the audience's horizon has expanded when it comes to movies," says Hazarika who does his bit for the ecosystem by mentoring budding filmmakers.

Poster of Aamis | (Pic: IFFB)  

Anupama Bose, Indian Head of MovieSaints, the platform that offers viewers a chance to watch curated independent films (and where you can catch Aamis too), seems to agree with Hazarika when it comes to the emergence of Assam and its filmmakers. The other states on her radar are Manipur, Kerala, which of course is a "hotbed" of good cinema and the Northeast as a whole. She especially credits Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI) in Kolkata and Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune who produce capable technicians and directors for the mature voices coming out of the Northeast. In this context, we wonder if she thinks that government-run educational institutions are doing enough for filmmakers and she says, "The state can do much more! And instead of getting into the business of running it, they should set it up and leave it in the hands of experienced professionals and academicians who can run it."  

Quiz the alumna of Jamia Millia Islamia about what she looks for in an indie film, she says, "We look for a unique voice which are rare to come by." Going back to what's so unique about the voices coming out of the Northeast, she establishes, "It is buzzing with unique voices that are not stuck in the song-dance-fight sequences. Their expression is wordly."  

It had its world premiere at Busan International Film Festival

Just as the narrative of the film M Cream sets out as a story about youngsters in pursuit of what apparently is the best intoxicant, their journey becomes more about standing up for what's right. Associate Director Aban Raza tells us that this movie is relevant now, more than ever, "especially in this political climate. We are at the cusp where we all need to take a stand and side with the Constitution of India," she asserts. The film, which also stars noted actor Ira Dubey and Padma Shri awardee, the late Tom Alter, started doing the festival rounds in 2014 ("we made it when the Congress was in power by the way," she says matter-of-factly), Aban has no qualms admitting that this a political film. And what connects it to today's political proceedings with regards to the nationwide CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act)  and NRC (National Register of Citizens) protests is the need M Cream asserts on the role of media, what the meaning of democracy really is and what it means to rebel. The escapist youngsters in the film find a cause to rebel and we must too, asserts the alumna of College of Art, New Delhi, who will be at IFFB to discuss her film.

Poster of M Cream | (Pc: IFFB)

When writer, director and friend Agneya Singh started writing the script, it was then that Aban, recipient of the prestigious Somnath Hore Award, got involved and slowly, she started contributing to every aspect of the film's making, back when they were all students. "We were around 22 and worked with a great mix of people, including youngsters from France and the USA. We mostly went with the flow and had a blast while shooting it," says Abna.

Picture this: A crow positioned on a dead man's head while an onlooker scrambles to collect a hit that is stuck between the dead man's finger. Such is the story of Cat Sticks, the debut film of Kolkata-based ace photographer Ronny Sen which tells the tale of the journey of drug addicts and junkies on a rainy night. This "atmospheric film", as the director describes it, was shot in 14 days in the year 2017. The actors in the film were put through vigorous workshops, they met and interacted with real-life junkies and recovering addicts, lost weight and basically, did a lot of homework before the film hit the screens. The director wanted to ensure that the ensemble cast gets the psyche and body language of the junkies right. So, did being a photographer make filmmaking easier for him? "I feel that if anyone has understood any artform - literature, painting, sculpting or anything else for that matter - the fundamentals of one applies to the rest. They are just different vehicles trying to reach one destination," says the 33-year-old who had to bank on his decade-old memories to recollect the experiences of the people he has known who experimented with drugs.

Poster of Cat Sticks | (Pic: IFFB)

"Through the characters, I attempted at showing a side of drug addicts that the society otherwise doesn't see," he explains and adds, "Even if there is euphoria involved in consuming drugs, it is short-lived while the consequences are more long-lasting." While the addicts in the film are helpless and consumed by drugs, the destiny that awaits them is nothing but dark.

Other movies to watch at the festival:
Aise Hi: The story of how a 72-year-old rebels, in her own small way, against societal norms after her husband passes away
Biriyani: This Malayalam movie is about a married Muslim woman who chooses a different way of life
Aani Maani: Named after a game played by children in Uttar Pradesh, it tells the story of a kebab seller in the context of the beef ban    
Jallikattu: A story of a butcher who loses his buffalo while the animal is seen causing chaos in a village

To book tickets, check out bit.ly/37gXOM3

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