Films, sea and sand

Updated: Nov 24, 2019, 07:21 IST | Meenakshi Shedde |

At Film Bazaar, you can find the best new films and projects from South Asia and wonderful stories

Illustration/ Uday Mohite
Illustration/ Uday Mohite

MeenakshiHappy destiny brings me to Goa, yet again, "on work." I'm attending the 50th International Film Festival of India (IFFI-Goa) and Film Bazaar. My taxi driver says tourist business is down "because the English are coming less now, as Goa is full of Russians." He adds that entire Goan villages have migrated to Portugal, as many are entitled to, "but they don't like it there because they have to work too hard." We suppose he means nine-to-five. We have much to learn from Goans on life priorities.

I'm staying in Fontainhas, the old Latin quarter, with its distinctive Portuguese heritage architecture. The streets include a Rua 31 de Janeiro and Rua São Tomé, with shops for 'tintas' and 'ferro', Verlekar joalharia (jeweller), Instituto Nossa Senhora de Piedade (Our Lady of Piety) and Aleluia key maker. At the IFFI inaugural dinner, I get to meet French actress Isabelle Huppert, but only briefly, because superstar Rajinikanth is seated at the same table, and desperate mobs are crowding in. But the saxophonist Irshad Ahmed playing Bollywood music that evening is so good, that a Serbian actor, Petr, leaps up and dances to the music with energetic Slavic steps.

IFFI has a strong programme at its golden jubilee year, and its highlights include an Oscar retrospective of Hollywood's Oscar-winning films, a Ken Loach retrospective, 50 Films by 50 Women Filmmakers, Indian New Wave Cinema Retrospective, an Accessible Film package with audio description for blind audiences, and a Golden Peacock Retrospective of films that have won the Golden Peacock at IFFI. The last triggers a rush of nostalgia because it includes Tulpan. In 2008, as International Film Consultant, IFFI-Goa, I was gobsmacked when the films I had curated, won all the three Peacock Awards of the festival. These were Sergei Dvortsevoy's Tulpan (Kazakhstan), which won the Golden Peacock for Best Film and Silver Peacock for Best Director, and Prasanna Vithanage's Akasa Kusum, which won the Silver Peacock for Best Actress (Malini Fonseka from Sri Lanka).

At Film Bazaar, you can find the best new films and projects from South Asia and wonderful stories. There's a moving Indian documentary about a woman returning to her home in Kashmir after years. There's a Bhutanese noir about a woman who meets her doppelganger. There's a Bangladeshi project that started when the filmmaker's wife went looking for sand for their cat's litter box.

And globalisation is bringing about wondrous things. For instance, Eka, a Bengali film project directed by Suman Sen from Kolkata, is being backed by Bangladeshi producer Goopy Bagha Productions, with Arifur Rahman, Dhaka, and Bijon Imtiaz, LA, who have brought on board French producer Dominique Welinski. Such a delicious lesson for Indians who ignore our small and precious neighbours.

At Film Bazaar, I meet a filmmaker who had been to Colombia, and did the popular 'drug tour', tracing the life of famous drug lord Pablo Escobar, whom many revere locally, and whose crimes are the subject of Netflix series, Narcos. Any takers for a Mumbai tour tracing the life and times of Varadarajan Mudaliar or Haji Mastan? Would be exciting, I bet!

Meenakshi Shedde is India and South Asia Delegate to the Berlin International Film Festival, National Award-winning critic, curator to festivals worldwide and journalist.
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