It's raining films

Updated: Jun 28, 2020, 06:25 IST | Meenakshi Shedde | Mumbai

Achyut Borgaokar did a good job of the Farsi-Marathi subtitles. When international cinema gets not only English, but even Indian regional language subtitles, it is definitely level 2.0.

Illustration/Uday Mohite
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Meenakshi SheddeI don't think I've so quickly learnt so many new things in a long time. The upside of the downside of COVID-19 is that I've simply been home, online, working, watching films, attending talks, conferences, participating in Zoom meetings for work and fun, and giving lectures and interviews online. I did an online health and detox course by SHARAN India; attended vocalist Dhanashree Pandit-Rai's wonderful thumri session; Dr Sucheta Paranjpe's talk on Kalidasa's Meghdoot; window gardening by horticulturist Anjana Dewasthale, and more.

Above all, there has been an explosion of films online, including free film screenings, that is unprecedented. And I was gobsmacked when watching the Iranian film Baran (Rain, urf Paus) by Majid Majidi, in Persian/Farsi, with Marathi subtitles, in a free screening organised by the Federation of Film Societies of India (FFSI), and forwarded by the Prabhat Chitra Mandal. The film is about an Iranian construction worker, Lateef, who falls in love with Rahmat, an Afghan refugee woman who dresses like a man in order to get a labourer's job. Her family is forced to flee to Iran when the Taliban take over Afghanistan, and they are desperate to survive. At one point, Lateef finds a man in the kitchen where Rahmat works, and chases him away. "Gap tujha kamavar nighun za. Nahitar mala Memarla aawaaz dyava lagel." "Ay pora, tu tuzha kaam kar na? Kai natak kartos be tu?" ("Just buzz off quietly and do your work. Or I'll have to call Memar." "Hey kid, mind your own business. Why are you making such a fuss?"). It was fascinating to 'see' Iranians speaking Marathi. Achyut Borgaokar did a good job of the Farsi-Marathi subtitles. When international cinema gets not only English, but even Indian regional language subtitles, it is definitely level 2.0. Congratulations to all those involved, and I hope this spreads to many Indian languages.

Meanwhile, the number of free film screenings online keeps growing. This is nightmarish for the film producers and filmmakers in terms of revenue. Yet, they are getting unprecedented audiences in India and worldwide. The big push came with the recent We Are One Global Film Festival, with top film festivals screening some of the finest films and talks online, for free. The Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI) has its Year Round Programme, also online, with Home Theatre film screenings for eg For Sama, Nasir, Dial M for Films (talks with the film industry), and more.

The others include the FFSI Online Film Festival, which offers free online screenings, posting links on social media, of Indian and South Asian feature films, documentaries and shorts. Vikalp posts documentary links, with Q&As with the filmmakers. The Goethe Institut has a Docu-Forum Online, that showed Shaunak Sen's Cities of Sleep last month.

Many festivals are trying to go partly or fully online. Last week, the Cannes Film Market online put out film discussions on YouTube. Nearer home, the Liberation DocFest Bangladesh, Dhaka, had a free online festival, including a package of films from India's North East. All this, apart from films on regular streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon, MUBI, Disney+Hotstar, Zee 5,, YuppTV, etc, as well as indie platforms like NFDC's cinemasofindia and MovieSaints. When it rains, it pours.

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

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