2013 BIFF surprised all by bypassing its practice of opening with a Korean film. So did the film it chose. Vara: A Blessing, set in small-town traditional India, is a complex story of forbidden love between a feisty young Indian dancer and a Muslim sculptor.
Her opportune chicanery diffuses a dangerously tragic situation. The film, his first in English, is directed by Bhutanese Lama, Khyentse Norbu (The Cup, Travelers and Magicians).
Its spiritual subtext is immersed in impressive Bharatnatyam dance and music and ravishing visuals. Norbu brought in top international names such as Wong Kar-Wai’s editor, William Chang, and cinematographer Bradford Young. The film won over the thousands at Busan’s huge open theatre.
Busan by now is the largest and most important film festival held in the Far East. Its opening night has the hyped-up opulence of the Oscars, as a stream of stars in all their finery sashay their red carpet entry. Shahana Goswami, the lead in Vara paired with newcomer Devesh Ranjan, were both the most sought-after pair of the evening. Their producers were with them, and among them was Suresh Jindal from Delhi. The director, a renowned Buddhist mentor and leader, was missing though. He was at a Buddhist retreat in a cave in Busan, meditating, while his film made its impressive premiere.
Indian filmmakers are strong in Busan, represented in force in its many sections, script sessions and workshops. Opening day saw Mani Rathnam being feted by admirers (his film Kadal is in the Gala section) and also Bejoy Nambiar, whose film David is also screening. A highlight, Santosh Sivan’s latest film Ceylon, made it to Busan in the nick of time. Recent titles, The Lunchbox and Qissa are prime entries.
Alongside the other Indian films, the list covers the many genres India has to offer Laxman Utekar’s Marathi film, Tapal, the Telugu film Eega by S S Rajamouli, Prakash Jha’s Satyagraha, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Shilpa Ranade’s animation feature, The World of Goopi and Bagha, and the new Vikas Bahl film, Queen. Director Kamal KM (of the film ID) is honing his new script at Busan’s workshop.
The one Indian film in competition in the New Currents section is Girish Malik’s debut work, Jal. He is in Busan with his lead actor, Purab Kohli.