UMA DA CUNHA | 17 JULY, 2019
Presenting New Indian Cinema’s Layered Avatars
16th Indian Film Festival Stuttgart, July 17 to 21, 2019
Stuttgart, the capital of southwest Germany’s Baden-Württemberg state, known as a manufacturing hub, is the headquarters of the Porche and Mercedes-Benz museums. The verdant city’s green spaces are linked with popular parks and one of the largest zoos and botanical gardens in Europe.
The city’s strong cultural life has links with India. Arguably, the strongest among them appears to be the Indian Film Festival Stuttgart. It was launched in 2003 by its sponsor, city magnate Andreas Lapp with Oliver Mann as its director. It has grown over the years to be one of Europe’s most extensive reach of Indian films that cover features, documentaries and short films made over the previous year. Its awards, endowed with up to 4,000 Euros, present an award in each section, and additionally, an audience award.
The 16th edition of the Festival opens on Wednesday, July 17, at Metropol Cinema (Bolzstrasse) with the powerful 'Namdev Bhau - In Search of Silence', directed by India-based Ukranian Dar Gai and produced by Dheer Momaya. The surreal film is on an exasperated chauffeur fleeing Mumbai’s cacophony as he heads for the northern hills of the “Silent Valley”. His irritation is aggravated by a chatty twelve-year-old boy who insists on accompanying him on his journey. The two affect each other’s destiny in meaningful ways.
Namdev Gurav in ‘Namdev Bhau in Search of Silence’
Premiering in Stuttgart this year as its closing film is ‘Lihaaf’, produced by Oscar-winner Marc Baschet and directed by Rahat Kazmi and co-written by him and Sonal Sehgal. A period drama, the film is based on Ismat Chughtai's most celebrated and controversial story Lihaaf published in 1942. It revolves around lesbianism and free speech, topics that Indian society is grappling with even today. It focuses on the writer’s trial after being charged with obscenity on publishing her story. The writer did not apologize, choosing to fight the case to uphold her beliefs. The film stars Tannishtha Chatterjee as Chughtai, Sehgal as the lonely Begum Jaan, and co-producer Namita Lal in the key role of the masseuse Rabbo. Sehgal and another co-producer Golda Sellam will attend the festival.
The festival’s unique School Day programme addresses pupils from class 9 to 13, and screens an insightful Indian film on a current topic will be showcased to the students.
Apart from these centrepieces, the Festival presents current works of acclaimed filmmakers appearing on India’s cinematic scene. This year, the fifty festival films programmed take us on a quest, many in the style of a road movie. There is the popular film ‘Hamid’ directed by Aijaz Khan and produced by Saregama’s Yoodlee Films, which has travelled to may world festivals through the past year.
It centres on a child’s search for his untraceable father by connecting directly with God, and has prime position as the Festival’s School Day film. This unique programme addresses pupils from class 9 to 13, and screens insightful Indian films on a current topic followed by a discussion with the filmmaker.
Sunny Pawar in ‘Chippa’
As the festival’s Family film, Safdar Rahman’s 'Chippa' follows another headstrong little boy, who on his 10th birthday sets out on a fantastical night-long journey through the streets of Kolkata to look for his long-absent father. Producer Celine Loop will represent the film at the festival.
'Abyakto - Unsaid' by Arjun Dutta sees a son discover his father’s homosexuality long after his death. Also included is the historical film, Srijit Mukherji 'Ek Je Chhilo Raja (The Imposter Prince) on an Indian hereditary prince who was pronounced dead in the 1930s. Twelve years later, a mysterious monk appears raising questions about a lost prince or a fraud? The director will attend the festival.
Other films include the satirical comedy ‘#Gadhvi' by Gaurav Bakshi, which is a tongue-in-cheek account of how pacifist Gadhvi is established as the face of the anti-corruption movement by social media; and Lokesh Vijay Gupte’s 'Ek Sangaychay – Unsaid Harmony' where the generation conflict in four families escalates until a bloody tragedy marks the turning point. Gupte will be attending the festival. With calm and poetic images, the widely-travelled 'The Gold-Laden Sheep and the Sacred Mountain' by Ridham Janve depicts a shepherd’s moral conflict – whether he has the dare and will to take the forbidden step and climb the sacred mountain?
Neena Gupta in ‘The Last Color’
The Festival’s unique mix also scores with celebrity chef Vikas Khanna’s feature film debut, 'The Last Color’. The film, about widows, orphans and the arbitrary use of police power, stars Neena Gupta. The drama 'The Sweet Requiem’ (Kyoyang Ngarmo) by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam deals with the life of exile Tibetans in Delhi. In Onir’s 'Widows of Vrindavan' we will see a critical glimpse behind the discreet walls of an ashram for widows, while ‘G.D. Naidu – The Edison of India' by Renjith Kumar’s portrays an Indian inventor who survived the bombing of Stuttgart. In 'Coral Woman' by Priya Thuvassery, at the age of fifty, Uma learns how to dive and finds herself surrounded by coral reefs being destroyed by plastic waste.
As part of Stuttgart’s Tea Matinee event, the documentary 'Satyarthi' by Pankaj Johar honours the eponymous winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. Shammi Singh, an Indo-German director living in Stuttgart celebrates the world premiere of his documentary film 'Women's Voice – India's Choice'.
The ‘Tea Talks’, integral to the festival for more than ten years will take place, alongside lectures in German wherein experts expound on various aspects of India. Aside from these, is the documentary programme with films like Sapna Bhavnani’s ‘Sindhustan’, with the director and producer Kabir Singh Chowdhry in attendance; ‘About Love’ by Archana Phadke who will be at the festival; and Andrei Severny with his documentary on Michelin-star chef Vikas Khanna, ‘Buried Seeds’, among others.
Directors representing their short films at the festival are Nitin Shingal of ‘Letters’, set in Italy during the World War II on a young soldier from British India. Another is Sumi Mathai with ‘Detour’ - on two strangers who meet by a twist of fate and realise that they have more in common than they would have imagined.
"And, of course, an imposing, equally silent chauffer in real life, Namdev Gurav, is now somewhat taken by his reel persona. His presence will dominate and grip the opening film event, becoming the main attraction to trigger this festival. Others will follow in his wake."