‘Ma’am we are already excited’, said some of the girls from Muralidhar Girls School before entering the hall. This was their first time at Kolkata Peoples Film Festival and I found them poring over the festival pamphlet.
After a brief introduction to the festival and the Little Cinema initiative, Subhashish da introduced the first film, Printed Rainbow, directed by Gitanjali Rao. This animated film depicts the life of an elderly woman and her cat and how they get lost in the magical world of matchbox covers.
Ones worldview changes according to ones age and the life lived. We learn from our experiences through what we live. What then, is the relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild? Is there one?
The film uses colour cleverly to show the connect with the present and how the old lady feels. For instance, when she is lost in her world of matchbox covers, the colour palette is bright . . . essentially, the colours of the rainbow. When she is in the ‘real world’, the colours are dull: grey and white.
One of the older members of the audience shared a more optimistic view, saying that all colour is not lost from the world.
After a short discussion on the importance of dialogue between generations and the need to understand difference perspectives, particularly between generations, we moved onto the second film.
The Cake Story, directed by Rukhsana Tabassum is about a boy and his father, in search of a bakery which has the boy’s birthday cake. The film, while lighthearted and funny in parts also shows a very fundamental characteristic of children- their faith in the world and their belief in their parents. Rukhsana spoke to the 250 odd children and their teachers about what inspired her into making this film, particularly her experiences working with children and her time with her grandparents.
The final film in the Little Cinema session was Kaphal (Wild Berries), directed by Batul Mukhtiar. Centered on the lives of two boys and their father, this film also addresses social isolation, particularly of people who are ‘different’ from the norm. This film resonated with the audience.
While waiting for the snacks that were arranged for the students who had come, some of them spoke about how the session was different, something they had never experienced before. One of the teachers who accompanied them mentioned how she wouldn’t have minded discussing the films for another four hours!
After a break for lunch, the audience reassembled for the inauguration, with a welcome note by Trina Nileena Banerjee and words from Ajay T.G., Manas da, Teena Kaur Pasricha, Bipul Chakrabarti and Rukshana Tabassum. The guests spoke of their association with film making and the People’s Film Collective, their inspirations and work. The book ‘Towards A People’s Cinema-Independent Documentary and its Audience in India’ edited by Kasturi Basu and Dwaipayan Banerjee was released following which, we resumed the programme.
Gunjan Rana from the Peoples Collective spoke a few words about the work that they do and what inspired them to work on the music video Bristrit Kinarako (On Your Mighty Wide Banks) after which it was screened for the audience.
‘The communal harmony was really vitiated in a relatively communally peaceful Kerala with RSS propaganda machine working round the clock to project Hadiya’s voluntary decision to embrace Islam as Love Jihad. . .’
We moved onto the New Documentary section with I Am Hadiya, directed by Gopal Memon followed by Nuclear Hallucinations, directed by Fathima Nizaruddin. The first is about the propaganda machinery in Kerala, one of the supposedly non communal states of India, and how a young woman named Hadiya is separated from her husband on account of supposed Love Jihad. The events that are recounted in the film have played out in front of our eyes, on television, print and social media. It begs the question, aren’t we as citizens of this country free to chose whom we wish to marry, and if it happens to be someone from another religion so be it? Nuclear Hallucinations is about the protests centered on the Kudankulam nuclear power station in Tamil Nadu.
The next two films: This or That Particular Person by Subasri Krishnan and I.D by Kamal K.M. addressed the issue of the UID or the Aadhaar card raising the questions of identity, equality and the possibility of the card being a part of a larger ‘big-brother’ agenda. The first film was followed by a talk by Ranjit Sur.
He began his talk by narrating the a story of a man who while ordering a pizza was given his entire personal history by the operator down to his bank balance, his blood reports and the number of people in his family. While amusing at first, this story has an undercurrent. What purpose do identity cards serve? The UID or the Aadhar Card holds every bit of information on you. This is where, as a country, we stand. As Sur said, is it not against the very principles of democracy? Where the Government holds every single bit of information on you and where you yourself cannot avail of any information from the Government?
This was followed by the final film for the day: Koi Chand Bhi Nahin (There is no Moon) directed Ajay T.G. and a talk with the director. Ajay spoke about how the people of Chhattisgarh who are displaced by various corporate backed ‘development’ schemes have to deal with the destruction of their homes and displacement from their land. The film documents this through interviews and first person accounts.