Spreading cinema far and wide

The Jagran Film Festival is a unique blend of world, Hindi and regional films for audience located away from metropolises who crave quality cinema

Seven Samurai, Akira Kurosawa's 1954 Japanese film, has earned itself an unlikely fan in Chandan from Lucknow. The 17-year-old film buff knew about the celebrated film but hardly got a chance to relish it until recently. But Lucknow is not the only city waking up to a new cinematic transformation. Meerut is involved in a heated argument over Jean-Luc Godard's use of jump cuts in Breathless and Vittorio De Sica's neorealist film Shoeshine is finding resonance among Allahbad's elite and middle-class alike.

Blame it on the Jagran Film Festival. Moving away from the traditional film festival ritual of wooing the urban populace in metropolitan cities, world, regional and Hindi cinema is travelling through the festival to 'unexplored' towns of northern India.

"We started the festival last year in 12 locations in five states (Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand and Delhi) and got a fabulous response. The people in these places lapped it all up and wanted more," says Pankaj Dubey, director of festival. And this voracious appetite for films is only increasing says Dr Ashok Chakradhar, author, poet and filmmaker who also is the head of jury of the festival.

"I went to Allahabad and Agra, the halls remain the same but the democratisation of cinema has changed the topography," says Chakradhar. "In the last 10 years, the kind of films which have emerged have changed the way these regions perceive cinema," he adds. The festival was conceived with the philosophy to spread awareness about cinema in places other than metropolitan cities. In its second season now it has
garnered active association and co-operation from over 100 film personalities from different genres. 

The cerebral and emotional altitude of these regions is victim to a lot predisposed attitudes, which the festival intended to change through not only the films but the discussions and debates with filmmakers, actors and intellectuals associated with the craft. "One is always surprised by how aware the audience in these so called small 'towns' or 'cities' are. The only difference is that metropolitans have the opportunities while other don't," says filmmaker Onir who has touched subjects like AIDs and same-sex relationships through his films.

Films like I Am by Onir which deal with subjects like single motherhood, child sex abuse and male prostitution when screened in a place like Jamshedpur, is opening cans of worms these 'small towns' are happy dealing with. "During one of the screenings one guy among the audience declared the film was too bold for Jamshedpur's sensibilities, while 20 others immediately stood up and said it wasn't," recalls Onir, whose film was
produced by 400 people in 47 cities, who got in touch with him through social networking sites.     

Jagran Film Festival in its own single minded dogged way has ventured into spaces which until now was considered 'experimental'. "I have been associated with the festival from the start. I believe what it has done is, is opened dialogues between different 'Indias' which co-exist within this nation," says actor Divya Dutta.
In a country where Gandhi idealised diverse self-governing communities in both the rural and urban landscapes, Jagran Film Festival is following an inimitable path. Join the walk and keep walking! 

On: September 23, 24 and25
At: Siri Fort Auditorium, Kel Gaon Marg
For invites, contact: Pankaj Anand (9910511011)

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