Meenakshi Shedde: Double take at single take

May 13, 2018, 07:28 IST | Meenakshi Shedde

I am familiar with Indian films in at least 10-12 languages, but it was a real discovery watching the best Konkani films on the jury of the 9th Goa State Film Festival Awards, that was given last week

Illustration/Uday Mohite
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Meenakshi SheddeBelieve it or not, exciting things are happening in Konkani cinema. I am familiar with Indian films in at least 10-12 languages, but it was a real discovery watching the best Konkani films on the jury of the 9th Goa State Film Festival Awards, that was given last week. To know who the top Konkani stars are, what subjects interest them — the church often looms large. The Best Film (Konkani) went to Nilesh Karamunge’s Mahaprayan (The Last Journey), Best Director (Konkani) to Rajiv Shinde’s K Sera Sera (Ghodpachem Ghoddtelem, Whatever Will Be Will Be), and Best Film (Marathi) to Sainath Parab's Disha (Direction). Mahaprayan was a real discovery, of which more anon. K Sera Sera, which swept nine awards, told two parallel stories of an ambitious career woman and a retired man, struggling to keep his family together, starring actor-producer Rajesh Pednekar and Palomi Ghosh. It had rich technical and acting credits, some ‘imported’ from outside Goa. Sadly, Miransha Naik’s powerful Juze was not in competition, but Nilesh Malkar’s Soul Curry smartly ‘imported’ Bollywood star Jackie Shroff for wider appeal. Shroff even dubbed for himself in Konkani and won a Special Jury Award for Best Actor.

Mahaprayan is one of those rare films, that makes a powerful social critique while accomplishing an amazing technical feat: the whole 83 minute-film is a single take, shot by Sameer Bhaskar. What’s more, it is the debut feature of an ex-army man, Nilesh Karamunge. Inspired by a real incident in Odisha, the film is about Tulsidas (Dhananjay Amonkar) who, unable to afford a hearse to take his dead wife from the hospital to his distant village for cremation, walks home all the way, carrying her corpse on his shoulders, accompanied by his young daughter Kaalika (Aarya Ghare). The pair meet many people who refuse to help — hospital staff, passengers in a bus, the police, and when a kind forest official finally helps them, the media pounces on him for ‘misusing’ a government jeep. The crew did many rehearsals, shooting in real time as they walked 3.5 km in the noonday sun. The film is a scathing attack on the government and our society. The charming and mature Aarya Ghare, just nine, won Best Actress.

Mahaprayan vaults to one of the year's most gratifying discoveries in Indian cinema, its accomplishments far exceeding its modesty and flaws. K Sera Sera is a polished work, given Konkani cinema’s constraints. And let's get some perspective here: while most regional Indian cinemas started in the 1920s or earlier, the first Konkani film, Mogacho Anvddo, was released only in 1950. The Hindi and Tamil industries make, on average, 250-350 feature films a year, but the fledgeling Konkani industry makes barely five to seven features a year. And there is no doubt that Konkani cinema got kick-started since the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) was held in Goa since 2004, and the locals were consistently exposed to world cinema. And look what it's offering now — you do a double take.

Meenakshi Shedde is South Asia Consultant to the Berlin Film Festival, award-winning critic, curator to festivals worldwide and journalist. Reach her at meenakshishedde@gmail.com.

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