Editor's note: Writer Arpita Chatterjee is in Canada with her husband Sagar Desai, who wrote the music score for A Death in the Gunj, Konkana Sen Sharma's entry to the Toronto International Film Festival
The weather gods answered my fervent pleas and it was bright and sunny on Sunday morning.
After catching a talk by director Adam Leon (Tramps), where he pointed out that one needs to find people who are excited to work on films because they will be better collaborators (films are about teamwork), I walked over to the Lightbox, TIFF’s head office, and the area where the festival buzz is happening.
It’s quite lovely as the entire avenue has been blocked off and the cafes have set up tables and the atmosphere is perfect for drinking white wine and soaking in the sun.
An interesting fact I discovered is that the TIFF headquarters is built on land that used to be a car-wash owned by Leslie Reitman, an Czech immigrant, who couldn’t speak either English or French. His family donated the land to TIFF. Leslie’s son is Ivan Reitman, who directed Ghostbusters, and his grandson is Jason Leitman who directed Up in The Air.
Sorry, about the digression. I just love trivia.
While I ate a lunch of saffron rice that was more turmeric than saffron, and drank white wine, I noticed several people stopping and speaking to an attractive man with grey hair and arm tattoos at the next table.
It was a European language I couldn’t identify and only later discovered it was Polish. This man turned out to be Boguslaw Linda, the lead actor in Wajda’s new film Afterimage. Yes, Andrzej Wajda has made another film. I couldn’t believe it. I would watch his films when I was a kid at the Nandan Film Festival in Kolkata.
Wajda is 90 years old now and still going strong. Boguslaw and me started talking, not very effectively because he doesn’t speak much English. He invited us to the screening of Afterimage that evening. I immediately cancelled my other film plans.
Afterimage is a biopic about avant garde artist and passionate art teacher Wladyslaw Strzeminsk in the years 1949 to 1952 when the Sovietization of Poland was most radical. Strzeminsk refused to bow down to the obligatory form of art dictated by the Ministry of Culture.
What made the film a huge challenge for Boguslaw is that Strzeminsky was a double amputee and started painting after he lost an arm and leg.
Boguslaw, in essaying the role, had to keep his arm tied for such long periods of time, his nerve was cut off and he can’t move his arm properly now.
Strzeminsky was also the author of a revolutionary book titled 'The Theory of Vision' and a lot of his lectures to his students were on this theory.
Wajda captures the bleak last few days of the artist’s life while he is trying to finish his book and the government cut off his access to an income, food as well as his students. With Afterimage, Wajda again speaks out strongly against authoritarian regimes and his rage hasn’t diminished a bit.
Afterimage resonated strongly with me as Wajda hammered in the point that art cannot be a tool to promote government propaganda. Given the current situation in India (that is of course nothing close to what the scene was in Poland in the 1950s), one needs to be aware of what the natural conclusion of a government interfering in artistic expression can be.
After the screening, Boguslaw was so happy I had come for his film and watched it from the first row because last minute I only got seats for that, he gave me a huge hug and said something in Polish.
I asked him which his favourite Wajda film was, he said, “I don’t like Wajda’s films much.”
I was in splits. I asked him, “So whose films do you like?”
He said, “I love the Coen Brothers’ films.”
Boguslaw was in Wajda’s iconic Man of Iron, which won the Palme d’Or in 1981. He’s also been in Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Blind Chance and the seventh episode of Dekalog. For film buffs, that’s the one where the young mother steals her own child from her parents who are raising the child like her sister to avoid a scandal. Boguslaw played Wojtek, the professor who impregnated the young girl.
After the very European lunch and movie, my taste buds craved some spice and I went over to Pai, a Thai restaurant. I ate an interesting prawn paan with Thai condiments and flavor and a green Thai curry packed with loads of flavor. But the dish of the day was the Thai sausage made of pork belly and kaffir lime and bird chilli.
I forgot to mention that at some point in the afternoon I passed by a shrieking crowd that had gathered for the red carpet of the movie Sing and caught a glimpse of Matthew McConaughey, Scarlett Johansson and Reese Witherspoon.
In other news, Lion one of the top films here has our very own Priyanka Bose in a key role. I'm going to figure out tomorrow what’s going on with her.