Sudhish Kamath goes theatre-hopping and catches some unforgettable films screened as part of the Chennai International Film Festival

Some of the highlights of the first half of the Chennai International Film Festival.

Sensitive approach

Abhinav Shiv Tiwari, the director of Oass, was moved by the response to his hard-hitting film on child prostitution and trafficking.

The audience at the Chennai International Film Festival not only clapped at regular intervals, they also mobbed him at the post film press meet.

“I was very particular that I didn't want to cast a minor in the lead role though the character had to be between 11to15 year old because I didn't want to do what the film was criticising... exploitation,” Abhinav said at the after party.

Yashpal Sharma, who plays the villain, apparently was so horrified after reading the script that he turned it down saying he can never behave that way with kids. Priyanka Bose, who plays the madam of a harem, also expressed reservations about the content. It took personal meetings and narrations to convince them about the roles and why the film had to be made.

“It had taken me five years of research and I had so many stories to tell out of that material. So I hired writers and spent nine months to flesh out the script,” he explains.

Launch pad

Bedabrata Pain’s Chittagong received an equally enthusiastic response at the question-answer session moderated by Siddharth Varadarajan, Editor of The Hindu.

It didn’t seem like a debut film, how did you do it, a delegate asked. “I surround myself with people who are a lot more talented than I am and pray to God that they give me what I want,” said the NASA rocket scientist turned filmmaker.

“It is a film about hope and the victory of ordinary people and I wanted to make sure that no character seemed like a cardboard stock character. Not even the British. An officer like Wilkinson in the film is probably like an officer posted in Afghanistan today. When he was posted there, he may have thought he is there to do good to the people... Before understanding what the situation really was,” he said.

He thanks screenwriting guru Christopher Vogler and his book ‘The Writer’s Journey’ that shaped his script over a few dozen drafts.

The fabulous dozen

Lakshmy Ramakrishnan had a full house at the screening of her film Aarohanam at Rani Seethai Hall. The director accompanied by the lead actor of the film, Vijayalakshmi, were quite excited about their film making it to the final 12, selected out of 21 films for the Tamil film competition at the festival.

The low budget film with no known stars, surprised people with its refreshing treatment of disability and portrayal of strong independent women — a rarity in Tamil cinema.

Get on the floor

In an effort to involve the local film industry, the Core Committee of the Chennai International Film Festival, for the third year now, is organising a series of red carpet screenings every night with festival hits such as Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love, Michael Haneke’s Amour and Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild.

“We want to raise the bar every year and this can happen only with the support from the industry,” says Shylaja Chetlur, core committee co-ordinator at Chennai International Film Festival.

The Red Carpet screenings are followed by discussions, cocktails and dinner at different venues every night. On Sunday night, the organisers had a surprise in store for the guests when Suhasini Maniratnam joined in an impromptu Zumba session on the dance floor.

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