By Parul Chhaparia
Amidst the soothing Swiss mountains and the picturesque Zurich lake, around 140 international audiences settled down in Corso 3 at one of the city’s best movie theatres for the screening of Anand Gandhi-directed Ship of Theseus. Around 149 minutes later, a big round of applause broke out.
Although other movies from India could not find such an overwhelming response, the international audience, mostly German speaking, at the 10th Zurich Film Festival (ZFF) were all praise for the independent directors in the world’s largest movie-producing nation, India.
“I have seen three movies (Indian) during this festival. I think they are deep and very close to reality…it is impressive,” says Veronica K, a Swiss national. Her most favourite was Geetu Mohandas’s Liar’s Dice.
The recently concluded 10th jubilee edition of the Zurich festival, which began on September 25 -28, screened 12 Indian feature films including Court directed by Chaitanya Tamhane, Gulabi Gang by Nistha Jain and Titli by Kanu Behl, Katiyabaaz by Deepti Kakkar and Fahad Mustafa in its ‘New World View’ section.
There were a couple of regional films as well – known only in some parts of India – such as Fandry by Marathi director Nagraj Manjule, Kannada film Lucia by Pawan Kumar and Tamil film Soodhu Kavvum by Nalan Kumarasamy that were screened and praised at the festival. The movies reflected various shades of India, such as electricity shortage, crime, social issues, missing workers, organ donation, legal battles in a common man’s life and many more – some less dramatised and others a little over the top. But most of them made interesting stories for the audience.
The Indian movies, according to Thomas Grahemmer, an independent short movie maker in Switzerland, “have interesting storylines and are quite moving”. The only problem, he said, was the length of the some of these movies. The point was well taken by the directors, who felt the screening at the international platform was completely a win-win situation for them, as it helps in marketing, promotion, feedback and most of all, providing the confidence to make movies which may not entirely be pro box-office.
Pawan Kumar, the director of Lucia, said such festivals bring together the diversity of Indian cinema on one platform, helping in narrowing the gap between an arty movie and traditional cinema. “There are a variety of movies like Titli and Soodhu Kavvum. Then there is my movie Lucia, which has five songs in it. Festivals are now opening up to new age cinema and hence are helping in bridging the gap between the box-office and parallel movies,” he said. Behl too opines that, “There are several Indias and several film-makers. There are many small movies that are making an impact on global stage. A film festival like this, helps doing that.”
While the whole setting at the festival worked well for Indian cinema and the directors, the organisers of the festival, were quite happy with the audiences’ response. “We had great reactions from the audience and many packed screenings. People from Zurich had the opportunity to discover a new kind of cinema and to dive deep into Indian culture and society,” Georg Bütler, senior programmer at the Zurich Film Festival, said.
Although the next year’s edition of the festival would focus on another country for its ‘New World View’ section, Butler said, many new Indian films are certainly going to find their way to the festival again. “Next year, we will focus on another country but, of course, we will continue to follow Indian cinema closely. I will try to make it to one or the other Indian film festivals in the months to come. It would be fantastic to have more Indian films in Zurich in the future too,” he added.
Parul Chhaparia is a freelancer