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Screen scenes to preserve regional identity

SAARC filmmakers speak out about the scope behind their creations:

Gone are the days when the creative skills of artistes are affected by cultural aspects. Filmmakers have adapted themselves to the dilemma in such a way that they no longer perceive cultural barriers as an obstacle. Instead, they believe that the diversity in culture and customs can help them create unique cinematic creations, harnessing a distinctive identity to the South Asian cinema. This was the stance which embodied each film that was screened at the SAARC Film Festival which was concluded at the National Film Corporation recently. Daily News ‘Projector’ spoke to two of the award winning filmmakers during their brief stay in the isle.

Indian film director, Somnath Gupta, believes that South Asian cinema has its own unique identity.


Somnath Gupta. Picture by Sumanachandra Ariyawansa

“I don’t think culture act as a barrier. Film has its own language. Cinema is such a powerful medium that it can overcome all the barriers. True, there are cultural differences. When we talk about our people, religions, practices and beliefs, it allows us to carry own identity to the world. There has to be differences, otherwise all films will look the same, there won’t be any diversity and then everything would look very boring,” he explained.

Somnath’s creative ventures
* String Puppets of Nadia - A documentary film produced by the Government of West Bengal
* Bhasa Mandakini - A documentary series on the development of Indian languages
* India 24 hrs - A film on tribal marriage system for Irish television
* Theatre Directors at work and Story of New Theaters - Television series produced by Doordarshan, India
* Won second place for his movie Ami Aadu at the SAARC film festival

Born in Calcutta, Somnath comes from a part of India which has produced many great artistic personalities such as Sathyajith Ray and Gautam Gosh. He represents the Indian regional film sector which is different from Bollywood cinema.

“India is a country with many languages. This plurality has its own character. The kind of films presented in film festivals such as this are from the Indian regional cinema,” he said. Somnath’s debut feature movie Ami Aadu was screened at the SAARC Film Festival. Translated into Enlgish as Sound of Love, the movie was highly praised for its touching storyline and went on to win second place at the event. The tale revolves around the heart-wrenching story of Aadu, a girl from Hindu Brahmin family, who finds herself in love with a Muslim boy called Suleman. The beginning episodes unravel around the touching love story of Aadu and Suleman. Then the movie takes a different route and shifts its tone with Suleman deciding to leave the country to search for a better job in Iraq.

From a vibrant, energetic first chapter, the story turns to a sad melancholic one, as it projects young Aadu, now pregnant with child waiting for Suleman’s return. Even though the movie does not follow the same glossy, glamourous style of Bollywood cinema, it has the capacity to keep the viewer hooked.

Elaborating on this topic Somnath adds that filmmakers do not necessarily have to make extravagant and flamboyant movies to attract viewers.

“If you think glamour means very glossy pictures without any reasoning, it is not right. It depends on how you define glamour. For instance even after so many years, I find Akira kurasova’s Rashoman and the Seven Samurai glamourous. Just because a film has colourful music sequences and action scenes you can’t call it glamourous,” he concluded.


Aspiring South Asian filmmakers face problems on how to take regional movies to the international community. Technology, finance and many other challenges have halted their progress and prevented them from making it big in world cinema.

Wangchuck’s filmography
* Chorten Kora- 2004
* Sangwai Charo (The secret Partner)- 2006
* Chortan Kora Part 2-2010

Bhutan film director Wangchuck notes, “We try to commercialize films with lots of action scenes and musical sequences. We do not possess some of the latest technological devices or money to make big budget productions to compete with the global cinema trends.


 Wangchuck. Picture by Sumanachandra Ariyawansa

We need to make simple movies as an answer to this problem. Look at our way of life with a creative eye and recreate them in a very cinematic manner.”

The acclaimed director has been nominated for many accolades for his cinematic creations in his country.

Wangchuck was in Sri Lanka to showcase his film Chortan Kora 2 (The Celestial Dancer) at the SAARC film festival. The movie was a sequel to Chortan Kora - part one which was made in 2004. It delves on the lives of ethnic minority, ‘Brokpas’ and brings out features of their lives and culture.

Speaking of the cultural aspect of his movies, Wangchuck says, “In a sense cultural restrictions could be looked upon as a factor which confines the artiste. We have the same problems in Bhutan. In a way it is good for us, because it gives us a unique identity.” He is very optimistic about the growing interest towards cinema among Bhutani movie lovers.

“Bhutani cinema is on the rise. During late 80s people were only interested in watching Hollywood or Bollywood movies, but now things are changing. More people coming to watch our movies,” he says.

He also believes that South Asian cinema could offer lot to the world, if they work collectively as a unit. He feels that the SAARC film festival is an ideal platform for the regional movie makers to get together and share their thoughts on the problems and challenges that surround cinema.

Speaking further on the topic Wangchuck notes, “We have to admit that making small budget movies won’t always attract viewership. Although such movies are good for film festivals, they don’t have a good market. But if the regional movie producers get together and work collectively, we can draw in money and make a big project. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a Hollywood or Bollywood type of film, but if the creative individuals in the region are provided with the necessary incentive, I m sure they can do wonders.”

AG

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