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Award-winning filmmaker Sanal Kumar Sasidharan heads to Venice and tells acv what new film is about; also Dev Patel and Priyanka Chopra Jonas to be in Toronto

Award-winning filmmaker  Sanal Kumar Sasidharan heads to Venice and tells acv what new film is about; also Dev Patel and Priyanka Chopra Jonas to be in  Toronto

International film festival season will start at the end of next month and here’s a quick acv guide to what’s showing and where…

Venice Film Festival ( Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica della Biennale di Venezia) August 28 to September 7

Chola/Shadow of Water – (director Sanal Kumar Sasidharan*) – One of the new enfant terribles of Indian cinema is back and makes his debut in Venice this year.

Sasidharan, as he better known in India, was the director behind ‘Sexy Durga’, later renamed for India, ‘S.Durga’.

This film came to the London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) in 2017 and caused quite the stir. It had won the Hivos Tiger ($40,000) Prize at Rotterdam and acv called it an “unorthodox masterpiece”.

Poster for ‘Chola/Shadow of Water

Chola/The Shadow of Water’ has a similar premise – it is a road movie of sorts, and has been described as a “magical realist drama”.

Sasidharan told acv: “‘Chola’ is a bit connected to ‘Sexy Durga’ in the subject matter that it is discussing.

“But ‘Sexy Durga’ was more outward looking into society. ‘Chola’ is more concerned with the individual mindset affected by the social psyche.

“Both are trying to discuss the issue of sexuality and patriarchy.”

Just as ‘Sexy Durga’ follows the plight of two teenagers so does this. But instead of the main protagonists hitching a lift in a mini-van with a bunch of guys, in this two teenagers end up in a basic motel and that is where their horror begins.

Sasidharan has something of a pedigree for controversy and radical cinema. ‘Sexy Durga’ was targeted by right-wing Hindu groups who objected to a female Hindu goddess being referred to in those terms, but Sanal pointed out at LIFF in the post-screening Q&A, it is simply a common Indian girl’s name. There is nothing graphic about the film despite its original title but it is something of a meditation on violence and its antecedants – and that perpetrated mostly but not exclusively on women, by men.

Originally chosen to feature at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI in Goa) in 2017, it was dropped and Sasidharan had to take his battle to the courts to get his Malayalam film released in India.

It finally screened in theatres in India in early 2018 under the title, ‘S.Durga’. Be interesting to see if ‘Chola/Shadow of Water’ attracts the same attentions (in India).

Sasidharan’s ‘S.Durga’ is not a horror film in the conventional sense but a dark, suspenseful and hugely intelligent feature constructed to put you on edge and fear for an innocent couple. For the first time, Sasidharan is working with established actors rather than amateurs or young ingenues at the start of their careers. Joju George and Nimisha Sajayan are well established in Malayalam language cinema.

Wendy Ide and Sanal Kumar Sasidharan discuss ‘Sexy Durga‘ at the LIFF-BFI screening in 2017

This feature appears in the Orrizzonti section which aims to showcase the best of upcoming global talent.

Bombay Rose is an animated feature by Gitanjali Rao and is the opening film of the the Critics sidebar section (Venice International Film Critics Week).

Her previous work, ‘TrueLoveStory’ was screened in Cannes in 2014 and this is her first full-length feature.

Bombay Rose will open the Venice Film Critic’s week – an honour that was given last year to Tumbbad

A former graduate from JJ School of Art (one of Mumbai’s most prestigious art colleges), she is also an actress and model and this film, a series of connected love stories, was six years in the making. It is part produced by Cinestaan Film Company which is based in London.

A short film from Pakistan, ‘Darling’ also appears in the Orrizzonti section as well. It lists the cast as Abdullah Malik, Alina Khan, Mehar Bano and Nadia Afghan.

Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) – September 5-15

Dev Patel returns to TIFF just a year after ‘Hotel Mumbai’ and ‘The Wedding Guest’ (currently on release in the UK) had their world premieres there. How different it will be with ‘The Personal History of David Copperfield’.

Patel plays the immortal character of ‘David Copperfield’, bringing to life one of Charles Dicken’s most evocative characters. Directed by Armando Iannucci, this film has already garnered attention for its colour-blind casting and Iannucci said Patel was the best actor for the job. Enough said here, sir.

Dev Patel in ‘The Personal History of David Copperfield

Iannucci is best known in the UK for ‘The Thick of It’ and later in the US, is the talent behind the Emmy-award winning hit show ‘Veep’ starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus (of Seinfeld fame). In the series she plays a US female vice president.

‘The Personal History of David Copperfield’ is Iannucci’s first foray into more general (not comedy genre) filmmaking. The film is also the Opening Film of the London Film Festival on October 2.

Also heading to Toronto and the subject of much attention in India and with the diaspora is ‘The Sky is Pink’.

Starring Priyanka Chopra Jonas (need we say more about the Bollywood and Hollywood star?) and Farhan Akhtar (Bollywood star and ace producer, see ‘Made in Heaven’), this is the tale of Aisha Chaudhary, a teenage motivational speaker who suffered from a chronic condition and died young. She is the narrator of the film which looks at her parent’s (played by Chopra and Akhtar) relationship. Some of the action takes place in London.
Chopra posted to Instagram –

Interestingly, Chaudhary is reprised by Zaira Wasim, who last month, declared she was giving up her film career, because it appeared to her now to be incompatible with her Muslim faith.

Just 18, and with two massive hit films behind her – ‘Dangal’ and ‘Secret Superstar’, both Aamir Khan star vehicles, it seemed a slightly odd decision but mostly everyone recognises the young Kashmiri’s personal wishes.

Farhan Akhtar, Rohit Saraf, Zaira Wasim and Priyanka Chopra in ‘The Sky is Pink

But there was no hint of this in December, when we spoke to her at the International Film Festival and Awards Macao (IFFAM), where she had been recognised by trade magazine Variety as a Rising Asia star. See here.

‘The Sky is Pink’ releases in cinemas on October 11. Produced by Siddharth Roy Kapur (and prominent producer Ronnie Screwvala and Chopra herself) acv readers will know about this film because Kapur talked about it at Film Bazaar in Goa last November. The film is a TIFF gala presentation.

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture