'Audience biased against homespun films'

'Audience biased against homespun films'

 The eighth annual Bengaluru International Film Festival saw many mainstream and independent Kannada movies being screened, but on the last day some directors pointed out that if given a choice, the audience would rather watch world cinema than regional makes, which is a bit disappointing. Although all the Kannada films were received with enthusiasm for straying away from popular narratives followed by ‘star cast’ productions, there was a noticeable bias against homespun stories.

Director Srinath Vasistha, whose film ‘Salila’ caught some attention for its depiction of the water crisis (to be more specific, the impact of an increasingly industrialised world that does not blink twice to dispose of toxic waste into water bodies in rural areas), said that it is important for filmmakers to take part in film festivals but most people would rather catch a foreign language film than a Kannada one because of the stereotypes that surround the industry. But looking at the variety of stories the directors picked to showcase this year, it might soon become difficult to stay away from them.

Instead of action thrillers that glorify an actor based on their (read as his) gender rather than his acting skills, issue-based movies cropped up in multiples. The lines that divide people based on their class, caste, gender and education were closely examined. Another film that talks about the water crisis, ‘A Day in the City’ by Venkat Bharadwaj, looked at how water is more accessible to those in a position of privilege.

This distinction between urban and rural spaces was another point that was emphasised in movies like ‘Saalada Magu’ by Umashankar Swamy and ‘Chiguru’ by Naganatha Madhavarao Joshi. ‘Chiguru’ also talks of casteism in rural areas. Director Joshi said that while the caste system needs to be abolished, it is not just the responsibility of the Brahminical. “Even a Dalit has to disassociate with the label,” he added.

In ‘Saalada Magu’, Kuvempu’s short story, Umashankar narrates how bonded labour is not just a physical condition but a mental one, one that plagues urban and rural areas. This is seen in Suneel Raghavendra’s ‘Puta Thirugisi Nodi’ as well, which asks the big question — what is the meaning of life, and makes it a multi-layered answer.

Some directors like B Suresha, who made ‘Devara Naadalli’, had suggestions for the next festival. “Right now, the festival is just about screening films, but it should be turned into a market-place as well; one where producers, distributors and directors come together,” he said. They are hopeful that the government will encourage such a platform soon.

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