Konkan film creates buzz at Toronto festival


A scene from The man beyond the bridge

The 96-minute film, which Goan filmmaker Laxmikant Shetgaonkar has made with assistance from the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), has been lauded by audiences for dealing with major dilemmas - faith, environment and social taboos.

Set in the lush thick Western Ghats, the film is an intense interplay of insanity, love, social taboos and political gimmickry.

Vinayak, the protagonist of the film, is a forest guard who loses his wife. His life in the midst of the thick forest adds to his loneliness. His only diversion from loneliness are the long patrols of the jungle and his occasional visits to his village.

One night when he is sleeping in his jungle house, he hears an insane woman making noises.

Initially, he shoos her away, but the woman keeps coming back. Finally, he takes pity on her, starts caring for her and an intimate relationship develops between the two.

In between, he locks her up to go on rounds of the forest to ensure there is no poaching. But with the blessing of a local politician, the tribals clear a patch to build a temple on the forest land.

Even as poachers' faith in god deals blows to the environment, Vinayak's decision to take in an insane woman leads to a clash with social norms. And he crosses the taboo when the woman becomes pregnant.

With no social acceptability for him now possible, the villagers cut the rope bridge that Vinayak takes to reach them. Thus he becomes 'The Man Beyond the Bridge'.

"Like all my short films that have a social relevance, this film too has a message. I like portraying human dilemmas. Through this film, I wanted to convey how insanity is still viewed as something to do with god or evil and how nature is exploited even in the name of religion," director Shetgaonkar said.

"I am very pleased with the response in Toronto. We got business inquiries from other countries," said the filmmaker who has also served as an acting teacher at the National School Drama (NSD) in New Delhi.

The role of Vinayak, played by non-Goan Chitranjan Giri, came in for high praise by audiences. "I picked up Giri because I knew him from the NSD. He learnt Konkani for this film," said Shetgaonkar.

Marathi theatre actor Veena Jomkar played the insane woman. The film will be released in Goa and Maharashtra later this year.

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