x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

DIFF offers a taste of the subcontinent’s cinematic riches

The Dubai International Film Festival features a trove of Indian independent films, including a dark cop thriller, a Malayalam film on romance amid classical arts, a hard-hitting feature on female foeticide and the already acclaimed movie The Lunchbox.

Kajarya, an Indian film at DIFF this year. Courtesy DIFF
Kajarya, an Indian film at DIFF this year. Courtesy DIFF

Indian cinema has lots to offer away from the mainstream Bollywood entertainment. And a mixed sample of independent films is what the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) is bringing together this year – whether it’s a dark cop thriller, a Malayalam film on romance amid the classical arts, a hard-hitting feature on female foeticide or the already acclaimed movie The Lunchbox.

The veteran actor Irrfan Khan will walk the red carpet along with his co-stars Nimrat Kaur and Nawazuddin Siddiqui when The Lunchbox screens as part of the Indian gala tomorrow.

Directed by Ritesh Batra, the film beautifully weaves together the story of a wrongly delivered lunch box in Mumbai that connects an elderly man, played by Khan, to a young housewife. The two begin to pass notes in the lunch box, sharing their fears and regrets.

The film, which narrowly lost out to the Gujarati movie The Good Road to be India’s official entry to the Oscars, is competing in the Muhr Asia Africa Features category. Catch the film tomorrow at 7.30pm or on Friday at 9pm.

Quality and diversity

This year’s DIFF offers an entire section called Celebration of Indian Cinema. “This year we have been overwhelmed at the quality and diversity of films coming out of the Indian subcontinent. The films have been carefully selected to entertain, inform and possibly even shock DIFF audiences. This programme has been designed to introduce filmgoers to interesting independent Indian cinema and will undoubtedly capture imaginations,” says Nashen Moodley, the director of the Asia Africa ­programme.

The director Amit Kumar’s Monsoon Shootout, which received critical acclaim at Cannes, is part of this celebration, masterfully blending a dark cop thriller with an intriguing narrative style. The movie centres on Adi, a rookie cop on his first assignment in Mumbai, who faces a life-altering decision – to shoot or not to shoot. The film presents three scenarios based on his choice. No matter what he does, he must compromise his morals. With an ensemble cast including Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Tannishtha Chatterjee offering edgy performances, the movie screens on Thursday and Friday.

Treasure trove

The filmmaker and writer Madhureeta Anand’s Kajarya, which relates to female foeticide and infanticide in India, is a hard-hitting feature in this segment. Shot in real locations with real people as characters, Kajarya is an effort to capture honest emotions and bring these incredible stories to the screen.

Celebrating Indian Cinema will also laud the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. The director Suman Mukhopadhyay adapts Tagore’s much-loved novel Shesher Kobita (The Last Poem), recounting the love story of Amit Ray, an Oxford-educated barrister, and the strong-willed Labanya. Their romance builds up against the picturesque hills of Shillong through a series of poems. Starring Rahul Bose and Konkana Sen Sharma, Shesher Kobita will be screened on Thursday and Friday.

The acclaimed Malayalam filmmaker Shaji N Karun, honoured with France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and India’s Padma Shri, brings his film Swapaanam (The Voiding Soul) . It explores the love between Unni and Nalini, which is ignited by their passion for the chenda (a percussion instrument) and mohiniyattam (a classical dance form). Their magical urgings for creativity, however, are abruptly halted by Nalini’s forced marriage. Starring the popular Malayalam actor Jayaram, Swapaanam is screening tonight.

The short film Shirno Bahu (Thin Arms) by Sandeep Ray competes with works from countries as varied as Burkina Faso, Indonesia, China, Korea and Kazakhstan in the Muhr Asia Africa Shorts category. This experimental black-and-white Bengali film is an intimate tale of an octogenarian woman undergoing treatment for a debilitating medical condition. It lingers on her growing sense of isolation and fatigue and her obsession with the mango tree outside her window.

Shirno Bahu is part of the Muhr AsiaAfrica Short 1 package and will be screened alongside other short films tonight and tomorrow.

“The worlds created in the films not only hold a mirror up to reality, but invent their own, playing with the surreal and the real at the same time,” says Moodley of the shorts programme.

• For full details of screenings, visit www.diff.ae

artslife@thenational.ae