A Quick run through of the various activities and sessions held at MIFF 2016

Six debutants and a mentor

Mumbai, January 30, 2016

In a unique experiment, the Films Division reached out to six young first-time film-makers from the north-east of the country, and taught them the intricacies of the craft. It was ‘a dream come true’ for Lallianpuii (Mizoram), Aldrin Losanghina (Mizoram), Anungla (Nagaland), Tiakumzuk Ao (Nagaland), Megotsolie Dolie (Nagaland) and Arup Mazumder (Assam, Director of Photography) as their films managed to make it to MIFF 2016. Beginning in 2014, this is the first phase of a continuing programme. States like Manipur and Tripura might be on the Films Division map soon. Of these states, only Assam has an organised film industry, but there too, Joshy chose to go to Silchar, instead of the state capital, Guwahati.

Concerned at the rejection of several pitches from the region by Films Division, in spite of interesting subjects, due lack of polished presentation, Films Division staffer-Director Joshy Joseph, who is familiar with that part of the country, mooted the idea of going to their hometowns and conducting workshops. Over a mere nine days, they had completed a film each: three days to write, three to shoot and three to edit. Since there are virtually no cinemas in Nagaland and Mizoram, the six will never see their films in a local theatre. So, watching them at MIFF, along with the audience, was an unforgettable experience for them, as they told to media persons at MIFF-2016 Media Centre on Saturday, January 30, 2016.

Tranquility (Lallianpuii) is about car drivers in Aizawl, a ‘crowded’ capital (relatively speaking), who are amazingly patient and tranquil, even when stuck in traffic jams. Sounds of horns are conspicuous by their absence. In a mere three minutes, Lallianpuii provides a capsule of a horn-free city and its polite drivers, with car registration numbers beginning with MZ. Songs of the Marbles (Ao) uses playing marbles as currency among children and a child bully as a symbol of political extortionists. It is made in the organic unity style, cyclically, practically ending where it began.

Birth of a Poem (Mazumder) highlights the plight of a lover waiting to meet his beloved and how his longing gives birth to a romantic poem. Misty Voyage (Losanghina) focuses on the Mizos, who do not venture out after dark, and watch films and, in terms of entertainment, programmes dubbed in Mizo, on TV. Of the other two Nagaland films, one addresses displacement, and unsung heroes. It uses only one Naga folk song, and no dialogue whatsoever. Another version of the film was called the ‘faculty version’, or ‘Anungla’, because it was ideated by her.

Lack of regular cinemas in the region also means virtually no censorship, and film-makers can make films of their choice. But they have to depend upon DVD distributors and cable TV operators. Mizos generally do not speak or understand any language other than Mizo, and even Salman Khan’s films are dubbed in the local language. Songs, however, are left intact. In Nagaland, Nagamese is the link language among many tribes, so the dubbing is into Nagamese. Most people in the state love to watch Korean soap operas and identify a lot with Korean culture. Nagaland too is very fond of Korean content.

Insurgency has almost ended in Mizoram after 1986, but Nagaland continues to face the problem. There is no state help for film-makers in either state, films being low on their priority list. The North East Zone Cultural Centre, set-up in the 80s, still functions, with headquarters in Dimapur (Nagaland). Though they fund cultural activities, and even documentation, cinema is not on their agenda.

Joseph pointed out that the camera, sound and editing were handled by professionals and the equipment was sourced from the nearest big city, Kolkata. Many more such workshops are needed before the outreach can have full impact, but all six of them were of the unanimous view that this was a breakthrough. They were deeply grateful to Films Division and MIFF. As ‘Puii’ summed it up, “I was so touched when, after the screening of my film, some members of the audience expressed their hope that other cities will follow Aizawl in becoming horn free.”

MIFF’ fast becoming the hub of documentary – Maik Pandey

Mumbai, January 31, 2016

“In a diverse nation like ours, the problems of society are multi-layered. Films of longer duration—one hour or two hours—are needed to address these issues” Mr. Maike Pandey, a documentary filmmaker and President, Indian Documentary Producer’s Association(IDPA) expressed while interacting with the media persons at MIFF-2016  media centre on Saturday. “We need at least ten times more documentary makers to fulfil this need, the purpose of a serious documentary is communication and awareness generation, and information must reach the villages” he asserted.

“MIFF has come of age. The colours, the hues, all indicate that it is fast becoming the hub of documentary, short and animation film activity in India. More documentaries are being made. More of them are getting popular,” Mr. Pandey appreciated.

He informed that IDPA had approached Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and submitted a wish list, for providing a fillip to the documentary film producers of the country. This plan included the setting up of a nodal agency, bringing together Films Division (FD) and IDPA, and all ministries of the central government, retaining this agency by paying Rs.10 crore (100 million) per year, to announce and publicise their projects and schemes through films. One of those was realized yesterday, a couple of hours before his press conference began. DD National (India’s state-run television channel under the aegis of Prasar Bharati), with a reach of 80 crores (800 million) started broadcasting a 30-minute documentary made by an IDPA member, and will continue to do so every week for the next three years and every documentary that is shown in this Saturday 2.30 pm slot will earn a fee of Rs. 2 lakh (2,00,000), award-winning films getting 25% extra! This fee structure is a vast improvement over the norm hitherto he told.

Asked what is the need of the hour to support documentary film-makers, he replied with a smile, “A few Bill Gates, who would finance documentaries, as a philanthropic exercise. There are virtually none around in our country. I have found one for my film, the CEO of a corporation, who took sixty seconds to decide that his company would back my effort.”

Harshal Wadkar: Moments of silence

Mumbai, January 31, 2016

Pune-based amateur film-maker Harshal Wadkar, whose film 30-minute short fiction film Bicycle was screened at MIFF on the 29th and 30th January 2016, met the press at the MIFF-2016, Media Centre, today. Some clips of his film were shown, to set the tone.

Wadkar said he and a group of his friends had been making films as a hobby for many years now. In 2009, he did a Film Appreciation course at the National Film Archive of India (NFAI), which egged him on to make more meaningful films. Bicycle is his 13th independent film, and the first to make it to MIFF. It is based on a short story of noted Marathi writer Sh. Vyankatesh Madgulker, published in 1954. After watching a 45-minute dramatic adaptation, he was captivated with the idea, and started to shoot the story.

Initially it was set in the period of the original story, but he found it difficult to recreate and manage that era, so he set in present day. “I changed the body a bit, but I retained the soul,” he added. As the title suggests, Bicycle is about a bicycle, and the havoc it plays in the lives of three men, two youngsters and one teacher.

Asked about his shot division, he pointed out that his story moves from the point of view of his protagonist, and he uses empty montage quite deliberately. Getting candid, he admitted the influence of the American director, Martin Scorsese, who often uses a pause or deadly silence before dramatic scenes, like a murder. He called them “moments of silence”. He even confessed to shooting a cycle theft scene in the manner of Vittorio De Sica from the all-time classic, Bicycle Thief.

In a reply to another question, if film awareness had increased significantly in his native Pune, compared to other cities, since bodies like the Film and Television Institute of India and National Film Archieve of India Harshal said that there were a large number of short film festivals being held in Pune every year, many more than in earlier years. But finding exhibition outlets continues to be a million dollar question. Incidentally, he shared with media, satellite television broadcast rights of Bicycle had just been bought by a major Marathi channel, for a period of three years.

What next, he was asked? Is he going to go the feature film route? Harshal insisted that his roots were strong, and he does not contemplate deserting short film or documentary genre in the near future. But yes, he was launching a feature film, about two (girl) friends who get into a conspiracy to compromise on their ethics in order to pursue a career.


Photo caption: Media Interaction with Mr. Harshal Wadkar, Director- "Bicycle' at Media Centre on 31.01.2016

‘With This Ring’ – featuring Mary Kom, Sarita Devi and Chhoto Loura

Marathon film for co-directors Ameesha and Anna

Mumbai, February 01, 2016

Ameesha Joshi, born in Canada to immigrant Indian parents, and Anna Sarkissian, of Egyptian/Armenian-Irish parentage, could not have imagined that their documentary on Mary Kom, Sarita Devi and Chhoto Loura, famed women boxers of India, would take 10 years to complete. But, like resolute boxers, they never let circumstances knock them out, and, to their delight their ambitious 87-minute film With This Ring was shown at MIFF, in the Special Screening category. On Sunday, they met the press at the MIFF Media Centre.

Ameesha, whose roots are in Ahmedabad, told that it was a picture of Mary Kom, India’s most famous female boxer, that had triggered the idea. “I saw it in an exhibition. Being Indian by heredity, I began to wonder how difficult it must have been for a woman in India to achieve international fame in the field of boxing. That was in 2005. I shared this thought with my film school colleague, Anna, and we decided to go to India and make a film about it.” She added that she had already made a film about a woman boxer in Canada, so she had some knowledge about the subject.

“I did not know a thing about boxing and had no interest in it whatsoever,” confessed Anna, who is a qualified anthropologist. “But soon after hearing Ameesha’s idea, we prepared to go to India, with funds provided by Ameesha’s family. Over the years, we visited India four times and also went to Barbados, UK and China. Shooting took place during 2006-12, and we must have spent around six months in India. I have travelled extensively in this country, and have loved every bit of it especially the food.”

Asked whether she spoke any Gujarati, Ameesha smiled and admitted that she could understand but not speak the language. Anna, who has learnt Arabic, the language of her Cairo-born father, had picked up some Hindi during the shooting, but cannot remember much now. Both agreed that language was a major problem during their days in India.
Responding to another question, about funding, the duo revealed that nobody was paid, and $21,000 was raised via crowd funding. Funds were also provided by the Quebec (the two met as students at Concordia University, Montréal, Quebec) State Council for Arts and Literature Canada Council for the Arts, and the National Film Board of Canada. Their alma mater, Concordia, provided production equipment free of cost. With This Ring was a marathon film for the makers, who have made a few short films earlier. Nearly 200 hours of footage was edited down to 87 minutes!
Both are enthused and delighted by the response to their film at MIFF, and are hopeful that they would find avenues of marketing and releasing it. Summing up, Ameesha said, “Back in 2006, hardly anybody had in India heard about Mary Kom. When we mentioned the name we were often asked, “Mary Kom? Is she Chinese? This in spite of the fact Indian women boxers were the highest ranked. Then, in 2012, women’s boxing was recognised by the Olympics, and Mary went to represent India. We followed her to Liverpool, where she was training. Though we were not allowed to shot the Olympics in London, we were delighted that she bagged the bronze medal!”


Mukesh Sharma:Adventures and misadventures in filmland

Varied experience and a long, eventful career make Mukesh Sharma just the person to speak on ‘How not to make films’. And he can compress so much in an hour-and-a-half! Yesterday, a packed and refurbished RRIII theatre on the 10th floor of the Phase I building heard him talk about his acclaimed film Anokha Aspatal (The Unusual Hospital), made for the Children’s Film Society Of India (CFSI) and a German-Indian co-production, shot during his earlier tenure at Mumbai Doordarshan (DD).

A science graduate, Sharma was associated with CGSI in 1980,and worked with them, as Production Officer, during the tenures of Dr. V Shantaram, Shabana Azmi, Jaya Bachchan and Amol Palekar. In this period, he produced about 52 films. His first as a director, Anokha Aspatal, won a special mention at the National Awards in 1989. The nation’s first Indo-Mauritius co-production venture was initiated by Sharma, with film Ankur Maina Aur Kabutar (Operation Pink Pigeon).

Many things went wrong during the making of Anokha Aspatal. It was the story of Amma and her grandson Gagan, run a unique hospital. They treat and offer shelter to wild animals, shot and wounded by poachers. There were serious issues related to the animals, mainly the tiger and the elephant, and by the time these were sorted, Tom Alter, who was to play the poacher, Mr. Smith, was not available. Sharma himself donned the costume, and before he knew it, the producer-director was also playing a character. To add to their woes. A continuity issue cropped up when a child artiste came on the set wearing a blue sweater, but Sharma felt that he had been wearing a red one in the last shot. No stills or footage was available to decide either way. As is the norm, they shot it both ways. As if that was not enough, the latter one important scene, when printed, had the lights bleeding, a phenomenon the FTII veteran cameraman of the 1965 batch, who was Sharma's assistant as well, could not explain.

Having made an arrangement with Sunny Super Sounds in Mumbai, the unit rushed back to Mumbai, from its shooting locales in north India, and was desperate to meet a 31 March deadline, set by CFSI Chairperson Jaya Bachchan. They had 10 days to complete the post production, which included separate tracks for music, effects and dubbing, and these were the last ten days of March. But even as they arrived at the facility, owner Dharmendra, the star, was instructing his staff to block the very same 10 days for a home production. Sharma and his unit froze. Somehow, he mustered up enough courage to go up to Dharmendra and tell him about the deadline that was hanging on their head like a sword. To their delight, Dharmendra smiled, and told them that the commitment would be honoured. He would shift his own post-production to Madras (Chennai).

In the German-Indian collaboration, a whole schedule was shot without incurring any expense whatsoever. Sharma was heading DD Sahyadri at that time, when the Director General of Doordarshan, based in New Delhi, told him to help a German director shoot some scenes in Mumbai, as part of a Melting Pot series that included Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur. Sharma agreed to help. The director flew down to Mumbai. A Doordarshan cameraman was assigned. Shooting was organised at HajiAli Dargah (mausoleum), St. Michael’s Church at Mahim, Sidhhi Vinayak Temple and with the dabbawalas (tiffin delivery services), on DVC Pro tapes. The director stayed at the DD guest house, free. A Deutsche Welle production, it became a DW-DD co-production, edited in Berlin. DW owns German rights, DD the Indian rights. Touché!

We thought this was going to be about how not to make films. In the end, it turned out to a lesson in how to make films the smart way!

DD Bharati agrees to screen Films Division films for two more years

New Delhi, 31 January: Films Division Director-General Mukesh Sharma has said the Films Division has inked an agreement with DD Bharati to telecast documentaries on Doordarshan’s cultural channel.

The agreement is for two years and may be extended if the slots prove popular, Sharma said in a workshop on ‘How not to make a film’ at the ongoing Mumbai International Film Festival for Shorts, Documentaries and animation films of which he is the Director.

Sharma is holding additional charge at FD in addition to his main charge as head of the Mumbai Kendra of Doordarshan.

He said in reply to a question that his predecessor had earlier signed a year-long pact with DD Bharati but he had taken a slot for another two years.

On another question, he said that it had become difficult to revive the Films Division slot in cinema halls despite winning a case in the Supreme Court because the judgment had a lot of riders to it. The primary directive that the apex court had made was that the slot should not be confined to FD films but also have other short films.

A way had to be found for selecting the right kind of films for showing in theatres and this may necessitate a selection body.

The FD was prepared to give up its demand of payment by theatres, which in any case was less than Rs 10 per show.   

Earlier, Sharma related the experience of a film he had made for the Children’s Film Society, India, where he was then posted, in 1989 where everything appeared to be going wrong but he not only made the film but even went on to win awards. He was originally asked to be the production controller by then Chairperson Jaya Bachchan but ended up being the director, the production controller, an actor, editor, and man Friday for the film, ‘Anokha Asptaal’ because he had to meet a deadline given to him by the Chairperson.

He said though he was lucky because he had planned everything backwards – from the expected date of completion working backwards to finding locations, turning a two-page story into a film script and so on – he would not advise others to do so. 

Upcoming film hub will further enrich MIFF experience

Mumbai, February 01, 2016

Midway through Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF - 2016), Director, Mr. Mukesh Sharma and the Brand Ambassador, Mr. Jackie Shroff  met the press on Monday, 01 February, 2016 at the Media Centre in the Films Division Complex.

“I am delighted to see that large numbers of viewers are sitting in our halls and watching documentary, short and animation films from around the world,” began Sharma. “We faced several hurdles in organising MIFF 2016, but the energy that is floating around is highly encouraging. I assure you that the next (15th) MIFF will be an even more pleasurable experience, once the film hub, currently under construction in this very, is ready. Instead of multiple venues, currently, we will accommodate 2000 viewers under one roof.”

Mr. Jackie Shroff shared that he was delighted to be among ideators and film-makers from all over the world. Having worked in mainstream commercial cinema for 33 years, he said he is entering a new phase in his life. “It made me feel so happy when students who are part of  the workshops at MIFF greeted me this morning with ‘Happy Birthday to You’. Yes, it is my birthday today, and guess what new step I took on this day? I attended a workshop on animation screenplay writing (conducted by Luca Raffaeli of Italy and moderated by award-winning India animator Dhvani Desai) Animation has always fascinated me, and I hope to make some animation films someday. ”

Confirming his enthusiasm, Sharma said besides performing his duties as brand ambassador, Jackie has been watching films too. To avoid over-enthusiastic fans disrupting screenings, he sneaks in when the lights are off, sits right at the back and sneaks out again before the lights come on. Asked whether he has had much interaction with audiences, Jackie replied in the negative. “So many of them want photos, selfies and autographs—that leaves little time to talk.”

Replying to a question about what could be done to improve MIFF, he said, “That is for the administrators to decide. But I would be very happy to see it become an annual event, like every other film festival in the city. A biennial festival is just not the same thing. IFFI (International Film Festival of India) at Goa is exciting too, but to me, Mumbai and Goa are the same. The synergy is the same. Both are island cities, and I love them both. We should make India shine, whatever the venue. Let us become examples of hospitality to all the delegates of the world. Let us sketch success stories of oneness every year. Instead of finding faults, let us support those who work hard to make these events successful.”

Sharma then paid a compliment to Jackie, that, he insisted was richly deserved. “Jackie’s presence has boosted our morale tremendously. He added that ripple that became a wave of energy.” Asked by a journalist if the festival could be extended by a few days, since there was so much happening, Sharma responded by saying that it was not likely with the present infrastructure, which was really strained to manage the present duration, “but the point is taken”, he assured.

A surprise lay in store for Jackie Shroff, as the MIFF 2016 organisers presented him with birthday cake, which he gladly cut, and even posed for photographs and selfies with media-persons. MIFF 2016, began on 28 January and will end on 03 February 2016.


Photo Caption: Mr. Mukesh Sharma, Director, MIFF-2016 and Mr.  Jackie Shroff, Brand Ambassador, MIFF-2016addressing a press conference at MIFF Media Centre on February 01, 2016.

Director is God, or God is Director?

Mumbai, February 01, 2016

‘Make a documentary film as if you are shooting a feature, and a feature film as if you are shooting a documentary’. Indian Documentary Producers’ Association (IDPA)’s Open Forum on Monday, 01 February, had four panelists and a moderator giving their views on this subject. Award-winning director and screenplay-writer/teacher Kamal Swaroop, who made Om Dar-B-Dar in 1988, and was part of the unit of Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, was the moderator. 

The panel consisted of: Mathieu Roy, Canadian film-maker best known for his 2011 documentary, Surviving Progress,  and member of the jury at MIFF; Ziba Bhagwagar who started her career as a journalist and then made ad films and is known for her film Scattered Windows, Connected Doors; Devashish Makhija, who assisted Anurag Kashyap on the controversial feature Black Friday, and also assisted in Bunty Aur Babli; Dylan Mohan Gray, of Punjabi-Irish parentage and trained a historian, has worked in various capacities on feature films with acclaimed directors, including Fatih Akin, Peter Greenaway, Paul Greengrass, Deepa Mehta and Mira Nair, and made the widely lauded Fire in the Blood, a feature-length drama on serious concerns in the world of pharmaceuticals.

In an era when boundaries are blurring, the general view was that films should no longer be classified as documentaries or features. Roy, who has served as Martin Scorsese’s personal assistant , reminded the audience, “Werner Herzog (renowned German film-maker) uses mise en scène and even faked monologues in his so-called documentaries.” He also lamented that financers (“funders”) insist on knowing even detailed dialogue, which may not be possible in a non-feature film. I wanted to make a film in the Congo, where the protagonist would be put in a situation and the events and the dialogue would follow. This had no takers, because the financiers wanted to know what they would say, in advance. It is for reasons like this that they prefer financing features.” Gray said it was important to know who you are making the film for. “Fire in the blood was for an educated urban audience. But when it comes to the rule book….I am against any rule book.”

Swaroop wanted the panel to consider a concept like time and time structure. “Take a film like Boyhood. It traces the life of a young boy and was shot over twelve years. How does it affect the film-making process?” In response, it was generally expressed that feature films are in the present, largely, but documentaries may have as totally different concept of time and events. Bhagwagar used this criterion for differentiating between feature films and documentaries: “Is it real? Or, is it a figment of my imagination?”

An interesting quote summed-up the debate. Suspense-king British director, Alfred Hitchcock (died 1980) said, “In feature films the director is God; in documentary films God is the director”.


Caption : IDPA Open Forum on ‘Make a documentary film as if you are shooting a feature, and a feature film as if you are shooting a documentary’ speakers Dylan Mohan Gray, Devashish makhija, Ziba Bhagwagar and Mathieu Roy, Moderator; Kamal swaroop at Films Division Complex today on February 01, 2016.


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