Utpal Borpujari

October 3, 2008

Pusan: Partho Sen-Gupta’s Arunoday in PPP

Paris-based Indian filmmaker Partho Sen-Gupta’s Arunoday (Sunrise) is the only Indian entry among 30 selected from all over Asia (out of 200 entries received) for the Pusan Promotion Plan (PPP, a programme at the Pusan International Film Festival, Oct 2-10, 2008), designed to help these films find co-producers and financiers.

 

Arunoday, being produced by Sudhir Mishra’s Cine Raaz Production, is likely to see its production take off by 2008-end. PIFF has just started (Oct 2) and will continue till Oct 10. Right time, probably, to share with you an interview of Partho Sen-Gupta:

 

How did you get to know about this particular fund of Pusan film fest, and what kind of selection process you underwent before your project got selected?

When I was developing my first feature film, Hava Aney dey (Let the Wind Blow), in 2002, a French distributor, who had been on the funding commission of the Fonds Sud (French Cultural Ministry Fund) and who had supported my project, suggested my project to the PPP. So, I had been selected at the PPP in 2002 too. The selection process demands a normal international funding dossier which consists of a one page synopsis, a 1-2-page long Director’s Statement, a Treatment no longer than eight pages, DVD(s) of director’s previous work(s), production schedules, producer’s bio, etc.

The film projects have to be a feature-length fiction film. The project may be in any stage of production from scenario stage, pre-production, production, to post-production, provided that the project is not completed before the time of PPP 2008. And only those projects that are not fully financed are eligible. 

How would this selection help your film?

A selection into the PPP gives my film project a position in the ‘world cinema market’. In the next three years most of the films that are in this selection will make it to the big five film festival selections (Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Locarno and Rotterdam). These will be the films to ‘watch out for’ for the international distributors, sales agents and the film festivals.  I don’t have to tell anybody on the international cinema scene that I am making a film – they already would know. So it does gives a peer selection stamp on the project. 

What exactly this selection entitles your project to?

There are some cash awards (Pusan award, Kodak award, Goteborg film fund award, etc) that the 30 selected projects will compete for. Once PPP official projects are selected and the participants of PPP are confirmed, the complete list of PPP projects with project profiles are sent to all the PPP participants. Participants to PPP are most of the top international productions houses, studios, television companies, sales agents, film festival selectors, distributors or funding agencies. They then have to apply for meetings to the projects of interest before the deadline. Filmmakers of selective projects can also choose up to five companies with whom they want to have a meeting. Then, between the 3rd to the 6th October, the selected PPP project directors are invited to an all expense paid trip to Pusan to conduct meetings in an especially reserved room in the Asian market of PIFF. Last year, there were 1,100 registered participants, 460 registered companies and organisations for the 35 PPP projects. So, it puts the project and the people backing it in privileged position in the market.

Was yours the only Indian entry in this selection process this year?

Arunoday is the only Indian project to be selected in the 2008 PPP line-up. I have no information as to how many Indian projects had been submitted for this year’s selection. It seems there were 200 project applications in all this year. 

 

How did you conceive this project idea and by when do you envisage it will be completed?

I am an urban man and have always lived in big metropolis like Mumbai and Paris. I spend a lot of time walking around the streets, especially in the night. They are an amazing source of stories for my scripts. Everyday an amazing thing happens around 11:00 pm when the world as we know it goes back home and shuts off. And then a different population crawls out, they are people one would never meet in the day. On one such occasion I was sitting in a small shady bar in Mumbai. I was approached by a man who said he could supply me with a sexual partner. I queried further and I discovered that there was a free and open market of underage children for sex. I told him I wasn’t interested and I went back home very troubled.  

When I was six, I had survived a kidnapping attempt on Shivaji Park beach in Mumbai where I grew up. I had been saved by passersby from the would-be kidnappers because I had shouted for help. This traumatic event has stayed with me throughout my life, often reproducing itself in disturbing nightmares. I have often wondered what my life would have been like had I been abducted.  I have tried to imagine my parents’ grief and the effect it would have had on their lives. I wonder what and where I would be today.  

Arunoday is a film about the destinies of missing children and the parents who have lost them. The film is told in a triptych, three spatially disconnected segments which interrelate temporally as part of one continuous narrative, culminating in an explosive and decisive end. Each segment functions separately as a narrative by itself but they could also be a continuous narration. The film is in Hindi and would be about a 100 minutes long. More details are at http://www.sunrisethefilm.com. The cast and crew are not decided yet though some are mentioned on the website. The film should go into production in December 2008. 
 

Why do you think Indian independent filmmakers are having to look outside the country for funding, etc., when a lot of independent films are getting made now in the country?

I don’t know what you mean by independent films. Do you mean films in India that do not have a ‘star’ cast and do not work on the Bollywood formula? But they are not considered ‘Independent films’ in the world cinema arena. Because being independent is not just from the studios and the stars, it is from thinking and a way of making films. Unfortunately in India, it is rare that directors make anything that defies the style of B grade American cinema. It is rare that one sees anything groundbreaking in the directorial style. Films in India are called independent just because they have a non-star cast in them and they are made for the fraction of the cost of mainstream films. The content and the treatment still remains the same. None of these films have made any impression in the international market. Frankly, there is very little interest or money for real ‘independent’ movies in India.

Then it is not always the money one may look for but a collaboration that brings in knowhow and exposure to a market that is alien to us. Why would you not want a Belgian co-producer who is ready to release your film in his country or on Belgian television? Why would you not want to see your filmed released in Tokyo
 

Were you satisfied at the way your first film worked out as far as reaching out to audiences was concerned?

I am extremely satisfied with my first film Hava Aney Dey. I love to see it again and again, especially for the great performances be it the main actors like Tannishtha Chatterjee, Nishikant Kamat, Aniket Vishwasrao, Rajshree Thakur or the numerous supporting actors. It brought me a lot of recognition in the international scene but not in India. The film was never released in India because the censors did not give a certificate and the Indian producer did not want to do anything with it. It was even taken off Osian’s Cinefan film festival because it was not censored. It has been shown in over 30 international festivals starting at the Berlin International Film festival. It received three awards in Durban, Hong Kong and Manchester. It is part of the prestigious Global lens 2008 of the Global Film Initiative which is a ten film package that tours 56 cities in the US for a year. Even after four years since its making it still gets screened in cities around the world. It was screened at the Museum of Modern art (MoMA) in New York. It was screened at the Rotterdam festival this year and it will be screening in Poland in November this year. It reached out to more people than most ‘independents’ in India who don’t last more than a week or two in the cinemas.  
 

Your first film too had a foreign angle as far as it’s making its concerned (Fonds Sud). How different have been your experience this time?

I make films – it does not matter who puts the money. I make what I want to, not what anybody wants me to. Thus, there is no effect on the making. Hava Aney Dey was a Franco-Indian co-production but a Hindi language film; there was some money from the Fonds Sud, some European private money and a minority Indian producer.

Arunoday will be produced by Sudhir Mishra through his company Cine Raaz Entertainment who has just finished producing Piyush Jha’s Sikandar. We are going to Pusan and we hope to get some interest from international sales agents and distributors.

I also have another film being developed in Europe. It is funded partly by Europe MEDIA fund and by the Dutch film fund and produced by a Dutch producer. It will be shot in India.

It’s always a different experience each time. That’s what I like about making films. 

 

The a complete list of selected entries for PPP, 2008:

Arrested Memories (Korea, Japan) dir. SABU
Black and White Photos (China, France) dir. Shu Haolun
A Brand New Life (working title) (Korea, France) dir. Ounie Lecomte
The Bride (Iran) dir. Mona Zandi
The Bright Way (Kazakhstan) dir. Marat Sarulu
Crawling at Night (U.S.A) dir. Kimi Takesue
Devil’s Rock (Georgia) dir. Rusudan Chkonia
Eugenia (Korea) dir. Jung Bum-shik
Executioner Garden (China) dir. Zhang Yuan
A Father (Korea) dir. Zhang Lu
Forget-me-not (Japan, Malaysia) dir. Yasmin Ahmad
How are you, Dad? (Taiwan) dir. Chang Tso Chi
I am Dan Ba (Vietnam) dir. Viet Linh Nguyen
Jeon Woo Chi (working title) (Korea) dir. Choi Dong-hoon
Leaving the Peninsula behind (Japan) dir. Lee Sang-il
A Long Afternoon Nap (China) dir. Chen Tao
The Lullabies (Iran) dir. Manijeh Hekmat
My Back Page (Japan) dir. Yamashita Nobuhiro)
Our Grand Despair (Turkey) dir. Seyfi Teoman
Pinoy Sunday (Philippines, Taiwan) dir. Ho Wi Ding
Quari (Korea), dir. Cho Eunhee
Running across Beijing (China) dir. Cai Shangjun
Sacred Warriors (Taiwan) dir. Chou Zero
Sandcastle (Singapore) dir. Boo Jun Feng
Snow (Thailand) dir. Kongdej Jaturanrasmee
Stranger (U.K.) dir. Simon Rumley
The Sunrise (India) dir. Partho Sen-Gupta
Two Dragglers (China) dir. Zhu Wen
YIPSAK-A Chicken Wild (Korea) dir. Oh Sung-yoon
“LEE Chang-dong Project” (Korea) dir. Lee Chang-dong

Indian films at PPP over the years (the names as given in PPP website):

 

1998: Twist with Destiny, Sudhir Mishra

1999: Unni , Murali Nair

2000: The Sea, Shaji Karun

2001: The Cleaner, Rajan Khosa

2002: Let the Wind Blow, Partho Sen-Gupta

          Are You Happy?, Sidharth Srinivasan

2003: Virgin Cow, Murali Nair

2004: Kamli (My Daughter), K N T Sastry  

          Kerala  , Santosh Sivan

2005: The Legend of Sandalwood, Arindam Mitra

2006: Jermal, Ravi Bharwani

2007: Boy with Grenade, Santosh Sivan

          The Flicker’s Dance, Priyanka Kumar

October 2, 2008

A Film’s Journey: From Pune to Pusan

Rajesh Shera’s film that takes a look at post-tsunami life in the Andamans, leads the Indian charge at Pusan International Film Festival, finds Utpal Borpujari

Rajesh Shera is on cloud nine these days. And why shouldn’t he be – this Pune-based director’s debut film, shot in the Andamans and recalling the impact of the devastating tsunami through the story of an old teacher, will have pride of place in this year’s Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) at Busan, South Korea.

Shera’s film, Ocean of an Old Man, will be showcased in the New Currents section of the festival as one of the six projects selected for the Independent Feature Post-production Fund of the highly-prestigious Asian Cinema Fund (ACF) programme, considered a recognition for best emerging talents from Asia.

In fact, India has hit it quit big this year in PIFF’s programmes to promote new talent. Delhi-based Jahar Kanungo’s Half Truth is one of the chosen seven in the ACF Script Development Fund, and Paris-based Partho Sen-Gupta’s Arunoday – The Sunrise has been selected for the sidebar Pusan Promotion Plan (PPP) that offers a platform to find funding and co-production opportunities to talented Asian filmmakers. Another Indian filmmaker, Ranu Ghosh’s documentary project Quarter No. 4/11 too has tasted success, having been chosen for the ACF’s DongSeo Asia Fund component.

Shera, an FTII alumni with a diploma in editing, will have the world premiere of his film, starring Tom Alter, at PIFF. And for a debutant director of a small film, it is quite an exposure that he would get, particularly as the festival has emerged as a focal point of those interested in Asian cinema worldwide. Quite naturally, Shera is excited, “

This has opened a big opportunity for me to explore the international scenario of filmmaking. And since it is a completion fund, I was able to complete the film.”
Ocean of an Old Man is the story of a school teacher in Andaman Islands, teaching kids from nearby islands in his school. As the devastating tsunami hits the archipelago, the school is rebuilt, but five students do not return. Where have they vanished, forms the crux of the story as it unfolds through the eyes of the teacher.

 

It is an original story conceived by me. We shot the film over 39 days in various locations in the Andaman islands. While the language of the film is Hindi, there is Nicobari too in the form of their folklore and traditional songs, and it has been done for the first time in the history of Indian feature films,” says Shera, whose visit after the 2004 tsunami and the first-hand witnessing of the agony of the people there laid the seed for the film.

Equally excited is Kanungo, whose first film Nisshabd – Reaching Silence (Bengali), had offered an interested treatise about modern-day man’s daily encounters with noise and their impact on his psychology. “The support from ACF will help me tremendously in developing my new film, as it will give me an opportunity to do all the research work and engage experts in the story board, engage a script editor, and also visit the likely locations on the basis of which the script is developed,” he says. Nisshabd was incidentally a part of PIFF’s competition section in 2005. The director, who developed the concept for Half Truth from a Bengali story he had written in a magazine called Digangan, says, “My story is about fiction and reality.  ‘Is fiction a manipulation of truth?’ is the question that I am trying to answer in this thriller.”

 

On the other hand, Sen-Gupta’s Arunoday is at a fairly well-developed stage, with Sudhir Mishra’s company Cine Raaz Entertainment roped in to be the producer. Sen-Gupta, whose first film Hava Aney dey (Let the Wind Blow, 2002), was made with the help of French Cultural Ministry’s fund Fonds Sud and had also got selected for PPP, says, “A selection into PPP gives my project a position in the ‘world cinema market’. I don’t have to tell anybody on the international world cinema scene that I am making a film, they already know because of this selection.” Incidentally, Hava Aney Dey, shown in 30 international festivals, was never released in India

because of censorship issues.
 

 

Like in his first film, for Arunoday too he drew from his experiences during “roaming around” in city streets at night. “The urban streets at night are amazing sources of stories. Once, I was sitting in a small shady bar in Mumbai, when I was approached by a man who said he could supply me with a sexual partner. I queried and discovered that there was a free and open market of underage children for sex. I went back home very troubled,” says Sen-Gupta, who himself had survived a kidnapping bid in Mumbai when he was six. “This traumatic event has stayed with me throughout my life, often reproducing itself in disturbing nightmares. I have often wondered what my life would have been like had I been abducted,” says Sen-Gupta, who is also developing another project that will be funded partly by Europe MEDIA fund and the Dutch Film Fund and produced by a Dutch producer.

But the India story at this year’s PIFF, being held from October two to ten, does not end here. The festival in its main sections will showcase quite a few Indian films across genres. While the  Window on Asian Cinema section will screen Nandita Das’ directorial debut Firaaq, Priyadarshan’s Kanjivaram and Santosh Sivan’s Tahaan, The Special Programme in Focus section comprises Anurag Kashyap’s animation film Return of Hanuman, another animation film Ghatotkach, the short-film compendium Mumbai Cutting and Hrithik Roshan-starrer special effects extravaganza Krrish. Quite a few documentaries from India are also being screened as part of the Wide Angle section.

 

 

(An abridged version of this article was published in Sakaal Times, www.sakaaltimes.com, 26-09-2008)

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