There is an Indian presence at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival…
By Mamie Colfox
THREE films from India screen at this year’s Berlin Film Festival – which opened today (February 10).
Much of the Indian media attention will be focused on the world premiere of ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi‘ by Bollywood auteur Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
This film, based on the real-life story of a woman who becomes the head of a crime syndicate, features one of the rising stars of Bollywood, Alia Bhatt. It is visualised from famous Indian crime writer Hussain Zaidi’s ‘Mafia Queens of Mumbai’.
Bhasali celebrates 25 years in cinema and his 10th as director. It could be argued that it was his film, ‘Devdas’ – a remake of 1950s classic with contemporary icons, Aishwarya Rai (Bachchan now) and Shah Rukh Khan in 2002, that opened the doors of the eyes of the West to Bollywood. It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival that year.
‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’ also stars one of the industry’s most established presences – Ajay Devgn. With Bhansali at the helm and these actors up front – and Bhatt and the director expected to be in Berlin – there will be all the usual hullabaloo that comes with a big Bollywood festival screening. In recent years several iconic features have premiered there – Zoya Akhtar’s ‘Gully Boy’ starring Ranveer Singh, being among them in 2019. ‘Gangubhai Kathiawadi‘ releases on February 25 worldwide.
Away from the glitz of this premiere is the documentary, ‘Ladies Only’.
Director Rebana Liz John explores the feelings of modern-day women living in Mumbai by going into the women only compartments of trains and asking the women inside, ‘What makes you angry?’
What is revealed is a city of incredible diversity – the responses are funny, depressing and eye-opening.
John is an artist and filmmaker and interested in exploring non-fiction narratives – as well as making films, she makes art for public spaces, uses animation and writes.
In ‘Sab changa si’ (‘All was good’) Indian director Teresa A Braggs explores the protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – an act designed to welcome refugees from neighbouring countries except those of Muslim heritage. The CAA and an accompanying National Register of Citizens – where Indians have to prove their families’ antecedents has caused widespread fear and revulsion among many minority communities in India.
Braggs looks at the protests as they developed in Bengaluru (Bangalore, Karnataka) in 2019-20 just before the pandemic. She finds themes of friendship, language and opposition to the reforms crossing age, caste and gender boundaries. This is Bragg’s debut documentary and it started initially as a project for her degree in communication studies at Mount Carmel College in Bengaluru. Brought up in Kolkata, she now lives and works in Bengaluru.
The 72 Berlinale runs for 10 days but from Wednesday (16), it will be a totally public festival with all screenings and events open to everyone – not just film professionals. Covid protocols are in place with official delegates being asked to test every day, but the screenings themselves are expected to be normal. The festival opens with French director Francis Ozon’s ‘Peter Von Kant‘.
US director M Night Shyamalan is President of the main competition jury.
Screening dates for these films…
Gangubai Kathiawadi – Wednesday February 16 – with accreditation only at 7pm (Central European Time) and then at 9pm; Thursday (February 17) and Saturday (19) and Sunday (20) – see here for details
Ladies Only – This Saturday (February 12), Tuesday (15); Wednesday (16), Thursday (17); Friday (18) and Sunday (19)
Sab changa si – 5pm Monday, February 14 and screens again on Tuesday (15) and Sunday (20) – see here for details: https://www.berlinale.de/en/programme/programme/detail.html?film_id=202212290#screening_dates