Two Indian films with bite come to the Venice Film Festival this year…
A MUCH-anticipated animated feature about young people trying to live out their dreams in Mumbai will have its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, which starts today.
‘Bombay Rose’ will open the 34th edition of International Critics Week at the Venice Film Festival this evening.
Made by self-taught Mumbai-based animator and filmmaker Gitanjali Rao, it has British, French, Qatari and Indian backers.
Rao has a long history of making animated shorts and her TrueLoveStory premiered in Cannes in 2014 and drew the attention of international film producers.
Giona Nazarro chief of the International Film Critics’ Week said: “Bombay Rose’ is a strong and interesting critique of the sexist male stereotypes of the Bollywood industry”.
Rao said she wants the film to show how young people are drawn to a city like Mumbai to follow their dreams and that Bollywood has some responsibility in shaping those dreams.
In a sense, she intimates that once there, they feel abandoned and their dreams are harder to manage.
The story focuses on three central characters – ‘Kamala’, a young bar dancer and flower seller; ‘Salim’, a boy from Jammu and Kashmir, who is orphaned because of the strife there and Shirley, an English teacher looking to make something of herself in the big city.
Also screening in Venice Film Festival and enjoying its world premiere is ‘Chola’ (‘Shadow of Water‘).
Director Sanal Kumar Sasidharan is best known for his award-winning film ‘Sexy Durga’ (Also ‘S. Durga‘ in India). An unorthodox masterpiece it won the top prize in Rotterdam and impressed many when it came to the London Indian Film Festival in 2017.
A road trip following around a couple who hitchhike a lift at night time in Kerala. It’s a close study of tension, fear and apprehension and tautly constructed to make you feel every gesture and movement of the men accompanying the couple in a small tempo people carrier.
Now, exploring similar themes and drawing attention to the Suryanelli rape case in Kerala in 1996, Sasidharan again focuses his critical acumen on controversial themes.
In this case, a schoolgirl ran away with a bus conductor whom she believed loved her. He was far from sincere in his emotions and sold her to more than 30 men. Some of these were of high standing, one was a MP, another a lawyer, and many also had families and children of their own.
She returned home and her father filed a case – many questioned her motives for simply returning home, not escaping or calling out the men herself during the crimes.
Sasidharan dives deep into an underlying culture which centres female existence around the protection and discretion of men and asks, is this what modern India wants or continues to support?
The actual film follows an elopement of sorts between ‘Janaki’ (Nishma Sajayan) and her paramour (Akil Vishwanath) and another major character is ‘Boss’ (Joju George, an actor-producer) who helps the two get away.
Sasidharan said: “I hope these characters will give rise to a number of questions about gender dynamics in practice.
“As a man, I understand there are limits and biases to my understanding of the female experience and I invite the discussion I hope this film brings.”
The film enjoys its world premiere in Venice on Sunday (September 2).
Elsewhere, the festival itself has been criticised for selecting two films by controversial directors called out for their inappropriate treatment of women and having only two women directors in its official selection (only Shannon Murphy with ‘Babyteeth‘ and Haifaa Al-Mansour with ‘The Perfect Candidate‘, feature.
Both Roman Polanski (‘An Officer and a spy’) about the celebrated Dreyfus case in Paris in the early part of the 20th century, and Nate Parker’s (‘American skin’) have films premiering at the festival. ‘American skin‘ features an Iraq war veteran’s son being gunned down by cops in the US.
Elsewhere, there are films by Cannes winner Hirokazu Kore-eda (‘Shoplifters’) who presents his first non-Japanese language film, ‘The Truth’ featuring Juliette Binoche and Catherine Deneuve.
Brad Pitt is there with ‘Ad Astra’ a space film directed by James Gray.
‘The Joker’ also promises to be a big draw. Todd Philips has Joaquin Phoenix as a clown prince of crime.
Films like ‘Marriage Story’ (Noah Baumbach) and starring Adam Driver and ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’ (Ciro Guerra) in his first English language feature and adapted from a JM Coetzee novel of the same name, and stars Mark Rylance, Robert Pattinson and Johnny Depp.
More: Venice Film Festival (La Biennale Di Venezia Biennale Cinema) open this evening at 6pm (UK time).
Bombay Rose trailer