Bollywood and beyond. This year's Indian film fest offers offbeat films from across the country.

Bonn : Until some years ago, the festival in Germany's southern city of Stuttgart was called 'Bollywood and Beyond', a celebration of mainstream Indian cinema, with arthouse films on the margins.

But the standard song-and-dance theatrics were beginning to get expensive for organisers of Stuttgart's annual event.

''This Bollywood factor, you can clearly say now, was a huge industry and as a small festival in Stuttgart, we could not keep up with it,'' says Hans-Peter Jahn, the festival's spokesman.

Bollywood film producers often demand high prices for big movies, and it would have been impossible to present an actor from these films in Stuttgart, he explained.

However, the era of the big Bollywood movie seems to be ebbing and new, more engaged filmmakers are presenting their movies Jahn added. As luck would have it, pandemic-induced lockdowns proved a boon for low budget filmmakers, who also profited from domestic and global exposure on streaming websites like Amazon Prime and Netflix.

Underdog's day in THE SUN

THIS YEAR'S selection offers a wide variety of works from almost all parts of India. One of the festival's highlights is the Oscar winning documentary directed by Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas, Writing with Fire.

The film tells the struggle of women who run Khabar Lahariya [Waves of News], a newspaper to rural northern India. For many people who live in the area, the newspaper provides an independent source of information. The paper was also honoured for its remarkable work by DW at the Global Media Forum in 2014.

Other entries this year includes Shankar's Fairies by director Irfana Majumdar, which tells the story of a master-servant relationship over generations. Tangra Blues is a rap musical in Bengali. It narrates the stories of slum children in Kolkata who want to make it big in life.

Directed by Manjari Makiani, Skater Girl tells a similar story about a girl who wants to defy her village's restrictive culture which keeps female family members from leaving the house and gets them married early.

A major highlight in this year's event is Jhund [Herd]. which features Indian superstar Amitabh Buchan, and is based on the life of Vijay Barse, who founded the NGO Slum Soccer in Nagpur, in western India

Rethinking Gandhi

Another of the organizers ''must see'' recommendations is the film Adieu Gogard by director Amartya Bhattacharya, about a man in a village in Bengal, who usually watches porn movies every evening.

One day,he accidentally borrows a video of the French director Jean Luc Godard and gets hooked to his movies. He then proposes a Godard film festival in his village, creating confusion and controversy.

Manish Saini's film Gandhi & Co, about two children who love to play pranks, revisit the Mahatama's culture significance. Films from south India include Kasiminte Kadal, by director Shyamaprasad, about a teenage boy who is afraid to move into a seaside town with his terminally ill father.

Another one is Karma Cafe, by Vinod Bharathan, about a man who returns from abroad and must prove himself to the world outside.

Short films include Bedsores by Navin Chandra Ganes; the documentary depicts the lives of members of the Banchhada tribe in central India, where the birth of girls is considered lucky.

Cheepatakadumpa by Devashish Makhija takes viewers through the lives of three male friends who talk openly about their experiences.

At the end of the festival on July 24, jury members will announce winners in three categories, including Best Feature Film, Best Documentary and Best Short Film, winners in the first category will be awarded Euro 4,000, while the other two categories carry a prize of Euro 1,000 each.

Medal for the Indian film curator

The Stuttgart Indian Film Festival is organized every year by the Filmburo Baden Wurttemberg. The main sponsor of the event is is Andreas Lapp, entrepreneur and Baden Wuttemberg's honorary consul for the Republic of India.

This year, organizers are also honoring the festival's curator, the Mumbai based Uma da Cunha, who has been curating films for the event for nearly two decades.

The curator will be awarded the Staufer medal of the state of Baden-Wurttemberg by state premier Winfried Kretschmann on July 20. Since the late 1970s, da Cunha has been helping organise Indian film festivals in Los Angeles, London, the Hague, Montreal and Houston.

She is also a prominent casting director, having worked on films like Jane Campion's Holy Smoke, Deepa Mehta's Water and Ashutosh Gowarikar's Lagaan.

In 2009, da Cunha was a jury member at the Cannes festival for the category Un Certain Regard. [DW]


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