Notes from the Jagran Film Festival 2013: Part I

Jagran Film FestUp until the eve of the festival, some one lakh people had already registered. The magic of a free film festival! Even if 1% of these turned up, there were going to be long queues and plenty of disappointments. I was juggling both, a day job and attendance at this festival. But instead of sampling world cinema, I had shamelessly planned to use this opportunity to catch up on Bollywood releases and classics I still hadn’t seen. But fate had other plans.

Was too late for Water, the opening film, so went straight for the current toast of Marathi cinema, Duniyadari. People weren’t able to get tickets for this film at paid screenings. I was expecting a full house for this free show. Why the theatre registered a barely 40% attendance is something I still can’t figure out. Also there were no subtitles in English as promised. The film itself just about makes the passable grade. It tries to include every formulaic plot it can as if it’s the last film the director is ever going to make. Campus comedy. Check. Love triangle. Check. A fourth angle to the triangle. Check. A political angle. Check. Jilter lover. Check. Terminal illness. Check. And it beats me why the film had more characters smoking than in a French film.

The next day I went AWOL from work. Was determined to make the most of it and catch at least 6 films. Fell one short of target.
Girish Kasaravalli’s Ghatashraddha was an obvious opening choice. No one but me had turned up for a certified Indian classic! I had to request the projectionist to start the screening! For a brief while, until a few others joined me, I lived out my fantasy of having an entire theatre to myself. In dealing with the relationship between and innocent child and a young girl who gets pregnant after an affair with a school teacher, the film reminded me of Pather Panchali.

The Korean hit, Yong-hwa Kim’s 200 Pounds Beauty turned out to be a nice TP kind of film with no pretensions of grandeur. The tale was age old where an ugly duckling undergoes a metamorphosis and passes off unnoticed as a beautiful chick. I foresee a Bollywood remake with plenty of song-n-slap stick potential. The Red Moon from Morocco gave me a good reason to catch up on my sleep.

My next two were the Punjabi film Nabar and the Gujarati film Saptapadii. Ho-hum productions directed by Jatinder Sharma and Niranjan Thade, respectively. Both films suffered from predictability. After the first half hour or so, you could imagine where the movie was going and you only had to tolerate it after that.

As part of the Jagran Classics section, Sholay was scheduled for an 8.30 pm screening. I reached there at 9.10 pm and the gates were still shut to a long queue outside. Delaying a night screening of Sholay surely means the organizers are dead serious about living up to the name of the festival. In any case I was there for the Hebrew film Rock the Casbah, directed by Yariv Horowitz. My favourite film of the festival. An Israeli group of soldiers find themselves stationed on the roof of a residence in Palestine when one of them is ambushed and killed. They have to deal with hostile neighbours, lack of basic facilities and a prick for a commanding officer. It was funny and exciting in equal measures. The banter between the reluctant soldiers was reminiscent of Full Metal Jacket. Finally, the film festival had come alive for me!

By: Devang Ghia
Posted: October 1, 2013, 8:59 pm


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