Three to see at LFF 2016 if you like... Indian films

Cary Rajinder Sawhney recommends three hot tickets at the 2016 BFI London Film Festival: a film by an established director, a great debut, and a wild card.

Cary Rajinder Sawhney
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The new film from an established director…

The Bait

The Bait (2016)

The Bait (2016)

What’s it about?

In this surreal fairytale set in rural Bengal, we meet three characters – a cranky ex-postman who has renounced the world, a young circus tightrope walker who dreams of being a grown-up, and an eccentric king, desperate to prove himself by killing a local tiger. Gradually, the three characters’ paths cross with surprising consequences.

Who made it?

Master filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta (Grihajuddha, Uttara) has won many awards for his 18 features. As with directors like Guillermo del Toro, Dasgupta’s works have a surreal, magical-realist style distinct from other Indian filmmakers, but with a searing political and cultural critique hidden within.

What’s special about it?

Greene is a filmmaker who wants to change the way you see and understand documentary. This film is his most complex, ambitious and beautiful to date, a non-fiction psychological thriller that purports to present a story of an actor (Kate Lyn Sheil) grappling with her preparations to play Christine Chubbuck in a narrative feature that is in fact a fictional construct.

This is a multi-flavoured spectacle with a rich subtext, set in a pastoral Bengal populated by wildly characterised fairytale folk and even wilder animals (no CGI here!). The filmmaker spent the first few years of his life travelling with his parents across his homeland in pre-Partition India, and this experience is reflected in the child-like wandering players who inhabit his films, seemingly rootless but locked into a timeless natural landscape. In The Bait, Dasgupta melds this storybook innocence with sharp political satire.

The breakthrough…

A Billion Colour Story

A Billion Colour Story (2016)

A Billion Colour Story (2016)

What’s it about?

Mumbai schoolboy Hari is a smart kid. His liberal-minded parents are from different religions and firmly believe that India will always overcome its differences. But as they face increased religious prejudice, they struggle with whether to leave the country they love. Hari hatches a plan to save the day.

Who made it?

Produced by acclaimed Hindi film and theatre actor Satish Kaushik (Mr India, Brick Lane, City of Gold), A Billion Colour Story is helmed by first-time director N. Padmakumar who, after 18 years in advertising (most recently as national creative director of Rediffusion Y&R India), has decided to follow his passion for making films.

What’s special about it?

The director wanted to tell a unique story “in the face of a world rapidly being torn asunder by division, violence and suspicion”. The result is a hopeful perhaps idealistic drama, which provides a much-needed boost for the spirits.

Eleven-year-old Hari Aziz (half-Muslim and half-Hindu) embodies the aspiration of a new urban generation in India, connected to global technology, upbeat in values, and burning bright with hope. The film’s inspiring finale will leave you spinning. Bring tissues!

The wild card…

You Are My Sunday

You Are My Sunday (2016)

You Are My Sunday (2016)

What’s it about?

In congested Mumbai, five young men live to play football at Juhu Beach every Sunday, but when they are banned the boys have the near-impossible task of finding a new place to play in the crowded city. As the search continues, relationships and emotions are put to the test.

Who made it?

Debut feature director Milind Dhaimade hails from an advertising background, with more than 10 years experience directing over 100 TV commercials. In 2011, his short Prakata Het Yaad won the audience choice award at Florence Film Festival. The film’s lead actor Shahana Goswami (Rock On!!, Firaaq, Ra.One) has won awards internationally.

What’s special about it?

You Are My Sunday is much more than a buddy movie about guys looking for their ‘little happy spot’ away from the pressures and strains of their high-stress middle-class urban lives. Based on the director’s own real experiences, it depicts how normal people cope with the cheek-by-jowl existence of super-cities like Mumbai and how each deals with their own physical and emotional space. Between the knockabout footie scenes is a feel-good story about men bonded by understanding, hope and positivity.

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