Episodic film India’s lone entry at Viennale 2009

By Mehru Jaffer, IANS
Wednesday, October 21, 2009

VIENNA - Amit Dutta`s “Aadmi ki Aurat Aur Anya Kahaniyan” (The Man’s Woman and Other Stories) is the lone Indian entry to the main programme of the 47th Viennale, Austria’s most important international film event that opens here Thursday.

“I feel honoured to be part of the Viennale. I believe in the Viennale because it is committed to essential cinema and not to glamour. We work very hard to make the kind of cinema we believe in under very adverse conditions and with very little money and resources. It is encouraging therefore when serious film festivals show interest in one’s work,” said Dutta in an email interview.

Dutta won’t be able to attend the Viennale that ends on Nov 4 as he is busy with his next film which his producer forbids him to talk about.

In a series of three episodes “The Man’s Woman and other Stories” explores the relationship between men and women and the physical and mental space inhabited by them.

The film has already won Special Mention in the competition section that reflects new trends in world cinema at the 66th Venice International Film Festival last month.

One of the oldest and best-known festivals in the German-speaking world, the Viennale is openly disinterested in Bollywood and Hans Hurch, the director admits that he is not too familiar with Indian cinema.

However Hurch did watch “The Man’s Woman and other Stories” at the Venice film festival last month and immediately wrote a letter to Dutta saying how much he had enjoyed the film.

“I liked his approach and I am convinced that Hurch is very serious about cinema,” Dutta said.

Dutta’s film is made with the students of the acting course of Pune’s Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and shot entirely on the same campus. The director was invited by students who graduated in 2009 to direct the film.

Dutta graduated from FTII in 2004 and has made short films ever since that have won international awards in the past.

“The Man’s Woman and Other Stories” is adapted from the short stories of Vinod Kumar Shukla and Saadat Hasan Manto. This is the first opportunity for the filmmaker to use existing literature for the screen.

“I had to make many choices in trying to represent the word as image. Despite being flexible in adjusting to other expressive forms like literature and music, cinema generates its own resonances.

“In this film, I try to highlight and orchestrate that cinematic resonance by creating gaps between the music, by using literary texts as voice over images in order to convey the real story within the gaps.

“This is also the first time that I have worked with actors and discovered the potential of the human body to express emotion,” says Dutta who believes that eventually all cinema has to transcend national boundaries.

He is very curious to know the response of international audiences to his work because what seems very culture-specific sometimes can also be universally accepted.

Asked to comment on the indifference of many international film festivals to contemporary Indian cinema, Dutta feels that firstly Indians need to debate on what defines Indian cinema and whether cinema as art is being supported from within the nation or not.

“We cannot accuse others of indifference when we ourselves are struggling to define the very function of cinema in our society. When meaningful cinema is not afforded a place within the society where it belongs, it becomes an export-quality commodity, alienating the director from his immediate audience. The need is to put our own house in order first, as sheer numbers do not define cinema.

“I feel honoured and it increases my belief in what I am doing when my films are appreciated but I also feel the need for this kind of cinema which is produced outside the mainstream industry to establish contact with audiences here in India,” he said.

The Viennale prides itself in valuing every film screened at the festival. However a five member jury will award one feature, and a documentary film but made only by Austrians.

It is the International Federation of Film Critics or FIPRESCI jury that will be on the lookout for new directors’ first feature film like “Man’s Woman and Other Stories” for an award to be announced Nov 4.

Filed under: Bollywood, Movies, World

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October 27, 2009: 4:55 pm

Dutta deserves all this adulation and his movie is worth every penny.

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