Films in a Frame

Documentaries that shake and stir are part of this year’s Open Frame film festival

Written by Dipanita Nath | Published: August 26, 2012 1:12:45 am

Documentaries that shake and stir are part of this year’s Open Frame film festival

A majority of Indians derive their entertainment from Bollywood; a small segment,however,queues up for the cinema that doesn’t relax,instead,provokes for long after the end credits have rolled. Open Frame,the annual short film festival of the Public Service Broadcasting Trust,celebrates the latter genre. More than 30 films make up the roster for this year’s edition,which begins on September 7.

Each of the five days of the festival is dedicated to a different theme — such as ‘Politics of Freedom’,‘Portraits from her Diary’ and ‘Burdens of Modernity’. Whistles and Bullets,the inaugural film,belongs to the first category,and boasts eight heroes. All of them were RTI activists who got killed in 2010,and eminent poet-turned-filmmaker Devi Prasad Mishra looks at the issues they raised at the cost of their lives. Other films in this section question India’s rising intolerance levels (Freedom Song),human-animal interactions in Kotagiri,Nilgiris (Gaur in my Garden) and how the backwaters influence every facet of life in Kerala (A Farmer from Kuttanad).

Another film on the opening day,Nirnay,focuses on five heroines — spunky,young girls from lower middle-class families who don’t always see marriage through rose-tinted glasses. “I have not understood my own family well,how will I fit into another family?” wonders one girl,before she is married off to a boy chosen by her parents. Filmmaker Pushpa Rawat turned the camera on herself and her friends for three years,picking up vignettes that could explain the essence of their existence. “These girls are educated and articulate but feel helpless when it comes to taking any major decision regarding their lives,especially marriage,” says Anupama Srinivasan,co-director of the 56-minute film.

Filmmakers at the festival range from newcomers such as Rawat to 12-time National Award-winner Santosh Sivan (A Farmer from Kuttanad). Viveka Chauhan,whose film Rup Rupantar,based on the folk art form of the Bahurupias,had won the Special Jury Award at the India International Youth Film Festival,will showcase her study of Bharatanatyam in Sadir to Bharatanatyam,at this year’s Open Frame. “It is strange that many up-and-coming dancers are not taught the history of Bharatanatyam,a dance form that is associated with the Indian identity itself,” says Chauhan.

Sadir to Bharatanatyam is a 30-minute journey through the chapters of history — from the era of the devadasis to the nationalist movement of the early 20th century when Bharatanatyam would be performed before meets,to dancing hubs such as Tanjore and Hampi. Chauhan tracks down dancers such as Sudharani Raghupathy,who has spent more than six decades in dance,as well as women from the Yellama section,who followed the devadasi practice of marrying girls to the temple until it was banned. “Many of these women survive on alms today and their role in the history of Bharatanatyam seems to have been erased,” says Chauhan.

Several filmmakers have used humour to make hard points. Nimesh Desai’s The Ageless Tramp,for instance,reveals how Adipur in Gujarat is India’s capital of Charlie Chaplin impersonators. Fathima Nizaruddin,on the other hand,calls her film that explores poverty and inequality in India — Another Poverty Film. “There is a problem with representing poverty in films; while filmmakers gain currency from it,the people it talks about are rarely benefited. Thus,by using dark humour,the film satirises my own efforts,” she says.

Open Frame will be held at India International Centre from September 7 to11

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