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Eye on the Hyderabad`I'

The short films and documentaries screened as part of the festival organised by the Hyderabad Film Club were a rare treat.


NOSTALGIA AND emotion made the Hyderabad `I' what it was — a whole world of fresh, awesomely intelligent, off-beat and sentimental visual collage not seen before. A world which "the camera can reveal" but "the eye cannot see" This was one festival where the audience, as much as the filmmaker stopped by to share the pride and the memories of this small tribe of Hyderabadis who broke off to tread a difficult path of making short and documentary films.

The Hyderabad `I' Short and Documentary Film Festival, organised by the Hyderabad Film Club (with support from ITC, B.M. Birla Science Centre and Films Division, Mumbai) — put together by Sumanaspati and Saraswati — between March 15 and 22 — was a rare treat.

It brought out the spirit of Hyderabad in more ways than one. Starting with the rendering of one quintessential image of Hyderabad (the Charminar) by M.F. Husain, reproduced in the invitation card, with Laxman Aelay's painting. Two images, of two different `I's, in two different times. The card, in a way, gave the essence of this festival.

Satyajit Ray.

Over 50 short and documentary films by Hyderabadi filmmakers over seven days of near-rigorous viewing, is by itself a matter of pride for Hyderabadis

Though the films were each obviously different, and set in different times and contexts, what was essentially common was the struggle then and now to make films of this genre. So you had S.N.S. Sastry (late) telling people "And I Make Short Films" in the year 1968. When you saw that the film was nothing but short, moving images — funny, humorous and touching — it was awesome. He makes short films and throws quick barbs at the mainstream cinema of the times, simply through visuals, sans commentary.

Sastry's second film, "I am Twenty" was a black-and-white gem — a film that took the camera out to capture India at 20 — 1967 — through faces, voices, of the 20s generation. Contradictions are what the film captured; some of which persist even today. These are young people talking about their ambitions, about what they want or don't want.

Late K. Srinivasa Chary's "Badshah Khan / Khudai Khidmatgar" is the only Indian documentary on Frontier Gandhi. The late filmmaker's spouse, Rami Chary, recounted how Chary was wanted to go to Afghanistan to shoot the film; but was not allowed. Luckily for him, Khan Abdul Ghafar Khan came to India to receive the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding. And that is when he could capture him on camera. Yet, the film shown at the festival was an edited, later (Hindi voice-over) version (1981) of an English film made in 1968.

A Place in the Heart.

Apart from films by older, seasoned filmmakers like Narsing Rao, Zafar Hai, and others, the true `I's of the festival, a real discovery, were films by the younger lot — Sudhakar Reddy, Shravan Katikaneni and Sarat Chandra Parsa. Not just short and succinct but also innovative in presentation and concept.

Rare moments

This festival's soul lay in its rare moments: with the filmmakers or their family members sharing some interesting bits on the film or its maker with the audience. So there was B. Narsing Rao telling us that he travelled 6,000 kilometres across Telangana to (re)create his childhood village in "Maa Ooru" made in the '70s.

And you had photographer-filmmaker late M. Hassan's sister, writer Jeelani Bano urging people to suggest ways to keep Hassan's works alive, in a most emotional moment.

One City, Two Worlds.

Among the emotionally connecting films were "Smarana" by C. Vanaja, journalist-filmmaker , about mothers of naxalites killed in encounters. Their sense of loss is coupled with a sense of pride, and anger. Prem Kumar Aman's film on the Telangana movement evoked similar emotional responses.

Amita Talwar's "Yaadein" on the legendary poet Kaifi Azmi — shot in his village home at Mijhwan in Uttar Pradesh — captured the essence of the poet with some very intimate moments and let the poet, and his family, talk of their associations, memories as intimate as the love letter he wrote to Shaukat in blood. Or saying, "what I write in verse, my daughter says with her eyes... " Doordarshan produced this film.

Aparajita Roy Sinha's "Kumbh Mela", a 10-minute film, was screened instead of the scheduled "Alluri Seetaramaraju". She apparently was reliving and completing a process begun by her father in his incomplete "Amrit Ke Khoj". Shots of her father Bimal Roy's film and hers correspond almost uncannily.

Prakash Reddy and his Hyderabad Film Club made this festival what it was — giving documentaries of Hyderabadi filmmakers a new lease of life. One hopes the spirit of this exercise lives on, and that we get to see more in times to come.


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