In a first for any Indian film, independent Malayalam film-maker Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s ‘Sexy Durga’ has won the Hivos Tiger Award 2017 at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR). ‘Sexy Durga’ premièred in Rotterdam on January 27 and is Sasidharan’s third feature film after Oraalppokkam (Six Feet High, 2014) and Ozhivudivasathe Kali (An Off-Day Game, 2015), both of which were critically well-received.
The award is a big win for the film-maker, who had crowd sourced the funds for his first feature film. Shortly after the announcement, Sasidharan wrote on Facebook, “This is something for Team Sexy Durga and indie movement in Malayalam. Thanks everyone. Remember my friends who supported me making my first film. Thank you. Thanks IFFR.”
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The Hivos Tiger Award is the IFFR’s flagship competition and carries a cash prize of Euro 40,000. In its statement, the jury said ‘Sexy Durga’ was being recognized “for its daring and resourceful approach in creating a mood of constant tension, providing an insight into multi-layered power dynamics of gender, class and authority”.
‘Sexy Durga’ is an unscripted, improvisational story of a man and woman, who hitch a ride late one night with horrifying consequences. It explores questions of masculinity, violence and misogyny in an insular society. These are themes that Sasidharan had also examined in Ozhivudivasathe Kali, which was based on a short story by the writer Unni R. It followed five men, who go on an outing during a holiday and, fuelled by alcohol, slowly reveal the ugly side of masculinity. The movie confirmed Sasidharan’s status as one of the leading figures of the indie film-making movements in Kerala.