Docu on Kolkata filmmaker’s Karbala journey wins award
Times of India | 24 November 2021
Kolkata: A Bengali documentary on the journey of a Kolkata filmmaker to Karbala, a Hindi documentary on how a school dropout galvanised a drought-hit village into a voluntary force that changed the destiny of 58 Indian villages, a Gujarati short film on an adolescent boy coming to terms with his sexual identity while going for a swim, a personality sketch of singer-composer Shankar Mahadevan were among the 10 films that were awarded at the fourth South Asian Short Film Festival organized by the Federation of Film Societies of India (ER) at Nandan on Monday.
Festival coordinator Premendra Mazumder said, “It was a challenge to organize festival in this pandemic. While we thought people would be apprehensive about attending the festival, the reality was different. People across India and even Bangladesh spontaneously came down and attended it. Out of the 200 entries, we screened 102 selected entries. Among them 25 documentaries and 39 short fictions were in competition.” On Monday, Saibal Mitra, Putul Mahmood and Nirmal Dhar gave away the awards.
Putul Mahmood gives away the Mrinal Sen Golden Award for Best Direction in documentary to Deepti Sanjeev Sivan for ‘Decoding Shankar’
The documentary segment, judged by John Hutnyk (Vietnam), Panos Kotzathanasis (Greece) and Lucy Virgen (Mexico), awarded Sourav Sarangi’s ‘Karbala Memoirs’ the Satyajit Ray Golden Award for best documentary for its ‘epic’ quality. Millions from all over the world join a peaceful march to Karbala to pay tribute to the martyrdom of Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, killed in a war that took place a millennium back. A filmmaker from Kolkata traced this journey in the desert in 2017 to film 'Karbala Memoirs'.“It’s nice that a film made in times of divisiveness, hatred, war and immigration got this recognition. I hope it travels more from here,” Sarangi said.
Sourav Sarangi, Nilanjan Bhattacharyya and Nandan Saxena exchange notes
Nandan Saxena and Kavita Bahl’s ‘Lakshman-Rekha’ got the Satyajit Ray Silver Award for dealing with the ‘important’ global problem of ‘drought’ in the ‘best possible way’. The film is an intimate, cinematic window into how Laxman Singh, a school dropout, galvanised a drought-hit village into a voluntary force that changed the destiny of 58 villages in the great Indian desert. The bronze award went to Digvijay Sulochana Yadaorao’s Sinhalese film ‘Sunita, Caring of Phantom’. The Sinhalese film narrates the story of a brave lady who follows her father's legacy by doing fearless work in a cemetery without any expectations.
Saibal Mitra gives away the V. Shantaram Golden Award for best direction in short diction to Navnita Sen for ‘Visitor’
The Mrinal Sen Golden Award for best direction went to Deepti Pillay Sivan’s ‘Decoding Shankar’ particularly because the ‘director had full control of the medium throughout the film’. This film is a personality sketch of Shankar Mahadevan focusing on how he balances his career as a singer, music composer, teacher and family man.
A special jury award went to Souvik Basu for the cinematography of Sovan Tarafder’s ‘8th Day of the Week’. Twenty five years back, Shubhashis Gangopadhyay, an actor-playwright-director had formed the Blind Opera in Kolkata. It was the first blind theatre group in India. Tarafder's film followed visually challenged actors from this group through different phases of practicing and captured how they staged scenes of Rabindranath Tagore's play 'Raktakarabi' (Red Oleander).
In short fiction category, Ritwik Ghatak Golden Award went to Nemil Shah for ‘Dal Bhat’. “I made a film on a boy whose only wish is to swim in a newly-filled lake. In a small desert village of Kutch, after a drought spanning for years, 10-year-old Mukti has a simple wish of swimming in the newly filled lake once. A seemingly simple wish turns to an unexpected discovery about himself, which causes him to question himself, the stigma around it, and his wish to swim in the lake. It feels good to be awarded for such a film,” he said.
The silver award went to Priya Naresh’s ‘Imaginary Homes’ while the bronze went to Randi Pavithra Kaluarachchi’s ‘Bless This Home’. Naresh's film explores how an old woman, with her incoherent past, and a young domestic help build an imaginary home together. Kaluarachchi’s film looks at how a typical 'father comes home' scenario turns in to a playful gun fight reminiscing old Western movies. As the battle between the mother and father becomes severe, the children are caught in the imaginary crossfire and eventually taken for ransom.
Saibal Mitra gives away the special jury award for short fiction to Antara Banerjee for ‘The Duffer- Faltu Lok’
The V Shantaram Golden Award for best direction in short film was picked up by Navnita Sen’s ‘Visitor’. This film is about how a 10-year-old boy wakes up to find himself alone in his house during the pandemic. His mother, who had left for work early morning, is unable to return, due to a curfew-like lockdown in the city. An encounter with some unusual visitors, who drop by unexpectedly, change the course of his day. Antara Banerjee’s ‘The Duffer – Faltu Lok’ received the special jury award in this section. Banerjee's film traces what happens when Babu, a taxi driver, suddenly comes to know that his unmarried daughter is pregnant.
The short films were judged by Insaf Ouhiba (Tunisia), Kristina Aschenbrennerova (Slovakia) and Sharofat M. Arabova (Tajikistan). According to them, these films treat “important topics”, show the talent in filmmaking, scriptwriting, film direction and the especially difficult work of working with child actors, give “voice to the voiceless” and “show new angles”.