It feels great to resume writing a column for sunday mid-day after 26 years—to a new generation. I used to have a column in mid-day around 1988-90. In my second innings, I’d like to share a lot of things that excite me, mainly cinema — Indian cinema, regional cinema, world cinema, behind-the-scenes stuff.
I’m just back from the 64th Berlin International Film Festival, to whom I have been India Consultant since 15 years. This year, there were 12 Indian films at the Berlinale, mostly films that I had recommended, and included international films by Indian directors. It is a career high for me, to help so many Indian films shine at an A-list film festival, that too without an ‘India focus.’ But more than that, it is a marker of the vitality of contemporary Indian cinema. The films selected include Imtiaz Ali’s Highway, Avinash Arun’s Killa (Fort), Pushpendra Singh’s Lajwanti (the Honour Keeper), Jessica Sadana and Samarth Dixit’s Prabhat Pheri (Journey of Prabhat), Jayan Cherian’s Papilio Buddha, Franziska Schönenberger and Jayakrishnan Subramanian’s Amma & Appa, Satyajit Ray’s Nayak, K. Hariharan and Mani Kaul’s Ghashiram Kotwal, Shambhavi Kaul’s Mount Song, Kush Badhwar’s Blood Earth, Gaurav Saxena’s Rangzen and Sanjay Rawal’s Food Chains.
Avinash Arun’s debut feature Killa, in Marathi, won the Crystal Bear in Berlin for Best Film in the Generation K Plus section for children. It is a superb coming-of-age film about young Chinu, whose mother keeps getting transferred, and he has to make new friends each time. Arun has assured control of his craft, elevating cinematography and music, and a genuine feel for the Konkan setting. Unfortunately, since it is not an Iranian film about children, but in Marathi, it hovers in a sub-Bollywood limbo.
From left: Archit Devadhar, Arun Avinash and Amruta Subhash at the Killa screening at the Berlin film festival
“The applause for my film from the international audience was amazing. They clapped for five-six minutes. I was literally crying,” says Arun. The Generation section in Berlin had earlier shown Umesh Kulkarni’s Vihir (The Well), among the finest films in world cinema in the last decade.
There have been no public felicitations for Killa, which was produced by Jar Pictures. The win got negligible coverage in newspapers. Given how venal the media have become with paid news, a wellwisher even offered to pay a Mumbai newspaper to carry the news of the win, but the newspaper declined, saying they would not carry news about a Marathi film on their front page, even if it was paid. Amazing, even paid venality has a caste system.
Avinash Arun’s is a remarkable journey of a small-town boy, who made it from Solapur to Berlin at just 28, barely two years after his graduation from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) with cinematography. He lived in Pandharpur, Murud and Panvel, before moving to Bombay. He has worked on a number of films by Umesh Kulkarni, Anurag Kashyap and Abhishek Kapoor; he’s currently shooting Nishikant Kamat’s film with Irrfan Khan, and awaits the release of Killa.
Similarly, Resul Pookutty, who won the Oscar for Best Sound Mixing for Slumdog Millionaire, writes in Sounding Off, that when he got the BAFTA and Cinema Audio Society (CAS) nominations, he wrote to the media in Kerala, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata—“but nothing happened.” Until the Oscars did.
A substantial part of Mumbai is immigrant. Can we find it in ourselves to celebrate greatness when one of our own breaks free and touches the stars?