Over the last many years, the Berlin Film Festival has selected more films from India than Cannes or Venice. This year is an exception: India has only three films at Berlin this year (last year there were as many as 12 Indian films). Of course, selection depends on the quality of films produced worldwide in any year, so it’s quite a feather in Nagesh Kukunoor’s cap that his Dhanak (Rainbow) has been selected in Berlin’s Generation section (for children and young adults).
Dhanak is a disarming fable about a young girl in Rajasthan, who wants to restore vision to her chirpy but blind brother. “The day I see an image in my head, I rush to my computer to write the story,” said Kukunoor, who has an inventive body of work since Hyderabad Blues in 1998. “Dhanak is the fastest film I’ve made. It took just two months from a casual meeting with producer Manish Mundra till we rolled camera on the set.” The film stars youngsters Krrish Chhabria and Hetal Gada. Meanwhile Mundra is emerging as Prince Charming to Indian independent cinema's damsel in distress. He's the CEO of a Nigeria-based petrochemical company but more importantly for cinema, a man who is ready to produce unusual films. He produced the critically-acclaimed Aankhon Dekhi and Umrika, which won the audience award at Sundance this year.
The other two ambassadors that India has are makers of two short films, a category that remains virtually unseen in India. Amit Dutta’s Chitrashala (House of Paintings) and Satindar Singh Bedi’s Kamakshi are in the Berlinale Shorts. Dutta’s previous films, including Admi ki Aurat aur Anya Kahaniyan and Nainsukh were shown at the Venice, Rotterdam and other festivals worldwide. Kamakshi is Bedi’s graduation film from FTII, where he was a student of direction.
Making up for Indian cinema’s cameo presence in the Berlinale selection is India's significant presence in other sections of the festival. About 52 Indians, representing 41 companies at the European Film Market, are in the market section of the Berlinale. Two Indian projects have been selected in the Berlinale Co-Production Market, where filmmakers with projects have meetings with potential producers worldwide who can produce the film. One is Photograph by Ritesh Batra, who directed the international box office hit The Lunchbox. The other is Sway with Me by Avinash Arun, director of Killa (The Fort), which won the Crystal Bear last year for Best Film in the Generation Kplus section and is due to release soon in India. Arun is part of the Berlinale Directors’ Projects, made up of directors who have previously presented their films in the Berlinale, and his project was selected from that pool.
Noted filmmaker and curator Madhusree Dutta is on the International Short Film Jury and as many as nine talents were selected from India for Berlinale Talents, a workshop and networking platform for 300 emerging film people from all over the world. From India, we have distributor Shiladitya Bora (who developed PVR Director’s Rare), actress Sanghmitra Hitaishi (who acted in Lajwanti, shown in Berlin last year), director Gaurav Saxena (whose Rangzen was in Berlinale 2014), director Jessica Sadana (her film Prabhat Pheri was in Berlin last year too), directors Khushboo Ranka, Atanu Mukherjee and Jasmine Kaur Roy, editor Tinni Mitra and film critic Monty Majeed.
So while only three Indian films in the Berlinale section may be disappointing, thanks to the impressive show at Berlinale Talents, Youngistaan is keeping the Indian flag flying high at the festival this year.
Meenakshi Shedde is India and South Asia Consultant to the Berlin Film Festival, award-winning critic, curator to festivals worldwide and journalist.
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Updated Date: Feb 09, 2015 12:53:03 IST