Day 4 – 21 January 2018

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The 4th and final day of the 5th Kolkata People’s Film Festival started off with the film Haanduk (The Hidden Corner) directed by Jaicheng Jai Dohutia. Based in Assam, against the backdrop of the ULFA movement, the film tells the story of three characters, all waiting for something.
Haanduk has been filmed in actual locales, amongst peoples who have witnessed this uprising. It is perhaps for the first time that the Moran community of the Assamese society, hitherto unknown to the world, has been explored in the context of this uprising.’
The film engages with silences—in the scenes without dialogue—effectively, conveying both the sense of loss and the weight of the waiting.
‘We work and we work and we work, till the 12 hours are over.’
Machines, Rahul Jain’s debut film, was screened next. The film details the inhumane working conditions inside a large textile factory in Gujarat, one that employs even, clearly, underage boys.
It was really wonderful to see a crowd in the hall, given that it was, after all a Sunday morning! That crowd swelled as the day progressed, and we had a full house for the films in the afternoon: Ek Maut: Kuch Sawal (One Death: A Few Arguments) and S.D.
After a brief introduction by Sibananda Mukherjee, one of the directors of Ek Maut: Kuch Sawal, the audience settled down for the screening. The film shows footage of the activities undertaken by Shankar Guha Niyogi and the Chattisgarh Workers movements linked with a discussion with three doctors who had worked in this area. After the screening, they spoke about what inspired them to make this film and how each time they returned to the area, they would think about the story and how it needed to be told.
The hall was packed to capacity for the debut of S.D. a documentary about the life of Saroj Dutta, revolutionary, iconoclast, comrade. After a few words of introduction from the directors, Kasturi Basu and Mitali Biswas, the film began. Using a combination of reenactments, interviews and stills, the film showed the audience a glimpse of the man that Dutta was. The film was extensively researched and as Dwaipayan Banerjee told the audience in the post screening discussion, it did take a lot of hard work to uncover all the details. Basu spoke about how they had started working on the film in the birth centenary year of Saroj Dutta and working on it for the last four years has been a journey in itself. Representing this journey was as important as the story. Biswas spoke of the emotional ride, particularly when they went on location.
After a short break, which found many of the members of the audience engaged in deep conversation about the film, so much so that the corridor outside had no room for any movement!
The next film, Turup, was screened after a few words of introductions by Sushil, a member of the team from Ektara Collective. This film uses a chessboard as the focal point, with the characters, all played by members of the community, all linked inextricably to it. It brings to light issues of communal disharmony, patriarchy and the role of women in that society. Shot at Chakki Chauraha in Bhopal, the film uses humour in generous doses and one finds oneself instinctively cheering for some of the characters in the film.
This was followed by a conversation with Moulina Midde, Sushil and the others from Ektara Collective. Moulina di spoke of how she didn’t think that she could be an actor, but the fact that everyone in the collective had faith in her and showed respect towards her, helped. Sushil described the work of the Collective and explained a little about how they work— for instance, there is no director, but there is directorial input. This is a very interesting aspect in the work of the collective. Even giving the music for the film was a collective experience. To the audience’s thrill, the actors then sang one of the songs from the film.
The final film for the festival, A Thin Wall, directed by Mara Ahmed was a very interesting collaboration between an Indian and a Pakistani filmmaker and shown, in KPFF tradition: a film from across the border on the final day. The documentary shows personal accounts of the partition from both sides of the border, weaving in narratives passed down over generations.
Surbhi and Mithun spoke about the film in the question and answer session that followed. Surbhi spoke about her collaboration with Mara, how as university students in the USA, they were ‘clubbed’ together as the desi community and how the conversation about partition began. They wanted to, through the project; try to steer clear of the ‘victimhood’ that so often comes in, in films like these. Particularly films about partition. Mithun spoke of his experience as cinematographer—the emotions that would come through while listening to the various stories. Interestingly he spoke of how he felt grateful that he never had to face incidents like the ones narrated and also simultaneously guilty of feeling that way.
The 5th Kolkata Peoples Film Festival ended on a positive note. As Dwaipayan said, A Thin Wall tries to do away with the persistent narrative of the enemy being on the other side of the border.
The audience was, as every year, fantastic. A full house to the point of people sitting down on the floor was something not anticipated and so, so heartwarming. The book and DVD stall saw not only people making purchases, but also spirited discussions and debates.
Until next year.
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