Among numerous films across many languages and genres at the Pune International Film Festival (PIFF), one film stood out, not only for the theme it dealt with but because of the language it was made in: Sanskrit. Ishti, made by Chennai-based professor, writer and filmmaker, G Prabha, was the only Sanskrit film screened at PIFF this year.
“This film intends to recreate a social situation that existed some decades ago, when the patriarchal system inflicted serious torture on women. The theme remains relevant even now, despite the advances made in women’s education, as well as social changes and reforms. In that sense, Ishti is the first Sanskrit film based on a social theme,” said Prabha, who has scripted and directed acclaimed documentaries such as Akkitham and Agnaye.
Ishti tells the story of its protagonist, Ramavikraman Namboodiri, and exposes the evil practices that existed in the Namboodiri community during a certain period and the suffering they caused to certain people, especially women.
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Ishti’s social theme, according to Prabha, will revive the once-spoken Sanskrit language, which had been used to write the Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas.
“Unfortunately, the language was restricted to certain sects of people and gradually, it lost its communicative usage. That may be the main reason why the film industry does not produce films in this language, even though it is an abode of art, music, acting etc, and also the language of maximum aesthetic exploitation,” he said, adding that the idea of making a film with a social theme, in Sanskrit, struck him about 20 years ago.
Ishti is not an art film or a language experiment, stressed Prabha, adding, “Sanskrit is the most suitable and natural language for the story, and for the life I have depicted in the film. As a professor, as well as a learner, of Sanskrit, I can say that in my film, it is quiet a natural and appropriate medium for conversation.”
Ishti has been screened in more than 12 film festivals across the country, including IFFI Goa, Chennai, Imphal and Bengaluru. The film has garnered a considerable response wherever it has been screened. “It was particularly a great moment for me when celebrated filmmaker Gautam Ghosh appreciated the film wholeheartedly in Kolkata…,” said Prabha.