Rejected at home, filmmaker returns to a hero's welcome

Toronto film fest

Rejected at home, filmmaker returns to a hero's welcome

A still from the film ‘The Man Beyond the Bridge’

Turned down for financial assistance by the state government, Shetgaonkar’s film ‘Paltadacho Munis’ (‘The Man Beyond the Bridge’) went on to win the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) Prize at the Toronto film festival last month, making it the first Konkani film ever to win a major award.

Konkani, the official language of Goa is spoken by only 2.5 million people, just 0.2 per cent of India’s population.

Set within an orthodox tribal Goan community, ‘The Man Beyond the Bridge’ tells the story of a lonely widowed forest guard who develops a relationship with a mentally ill woman. The jury citation for the film read: “Far from the sensory overload of India's big cities, this film explores smaller but enduring dilemmas, drawing together keen environmental sensitivity with a nuanced view of village dynamics”.

Making the film was no cakewalk. There is a tinge of bitterness as Shetgaonkar, 34, recalls the four-year struggle and “rejection at every door”. In 2007, the Entertainment Society of Goa’s screening committee rejected outright government funding for the film, delaying its production by two years.

But Shetgaonkar’s script was noticed by filmmakers Mani Ratnam and Danis Tanovic at the 2007 International Film Festival of India. In 2008, a screenwriting workshop headed by Shekhar Kapur, among others, ensured he received seed money from the British Council. The film finally got off with NFDC funding.

Feted by the state government on Friday, Shetgaonkar who got a cheque of Rs 25 lakh said he planned to use the money to distribute the film and make sure every village in Goa got to see it.

“What good are awards if a film does not reach an audience?” he asks.
The Toronto film festival had taught him that when it came to a good film, language was no barrier, he said. “They were not concerned about the language of my film. All they want is a good film.”

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