The last two days of the Habitat Film Festival were filled with frenzied activity as they wrapped up the flurry of events and film screenings. Film aficionados came together to dedicatedly watch old favourites and discover art house and regional cinema during the course of the festival.
The cinematic landscapes, experimental works and political reportage in various films presented an opportunity for the audience to connect with wider languages, issues and even locales as they explored India through cinema.Advertisement
When asked for their feedback on the festival, the audience members appreciated the wide selection of movies, well organised programmes, free and easily obtainable passes.
Commenting on the easy availability of passes, Narendra Chabbra, a 62-year-old government official said, “This festival is much better organised than the ones I have attended earlier. The collection of passes against online booking is very convenient.”
There was much excitement around the opportunity to watch different films at the festival. Mamta, who hitherto only restricted herself to Hindi cinema, watched Sila Samayangalil/Sometimes at the festival, a suspense drama that explores the issue of HIV in India. The odd humour in the film and the grudging camaraderie that develops between the patients, made the film stand out for her as she realised the importance of regional cinema and the powerful messages that they impart.
Neena Rao, 61, echoed the same sentiment and said, “The films being showcased here are some great works of art that aren’t known to the masses. The common man rarely takes notice of regional cinema because they are busy focusing on mainstream Bollywood movies”.
Rao's favourite movie was Harikatha Prasanga that traces the life of Hari, a Yakshagana (Kannada folk theatre/dance drama) performer, playing female roles. It deals with the confusion about his two gender identities — during the day he is expected to be a man and conform to appropriate stereotypes, while his roles at night require him to be a woman and convincingly bring out femininity. She added, “It was a very true and personal account which forces us to think deeper.”
Another cinema enthusiast agreed with the discovery of regional films at the festival saying, “Nowadays people are following international films, but forgeting these regional films that contain values is really important for guiding people through life. People must never forget their roots, the place where they come from.”
As for 14-year-old Aditya Sharma, the premiere of Katrikka Vendakka was a moving experience. He said, “The movie taught me that even when there are problems in our lives, we can always find a solution as shown in the movie where the children try to help their parents financially without letting the parents know of their ventures."
Ashish, a TV production student and Bhupinder, a media student appreciated the panel discussions and said, “They are a good approach to disperse knowledge about the world of filmmaking." As budding directors, they found the regional works of these film makers enlightening.
The audience was also spoilt for choice at the festival and wanted to watch several films at once! Rupam Kumar, for example, was torn between the 1968 classic Bambai Raat Ki Baahon Mein, which was a big part of his childhood and the critically acclaimed Chitrokar (2016), a film that questions the motive for art and presents the tension between artistic endeavour and commercial reality.
Along with showcasing the best of regional cinema, the festival also paid tribute to Om Puri and KA Abbas, two men who were an integral part of Hindi Cinema.
Rakesh Kumar Sharma, 73, who has been visiting the festival to revive his childhood memories said, “I have always watched only Hindi movies as they hold a special meaning for me, I am thoroughly enjoying all the movies.”
Associate professor of law Pallavi Kishore also lamented missing out on films due to the dual screenings and suggested that the festival could be made longer and spread over weekends so one could watch all the films!
The festival was an enormous success and the last day of the festival left the cinegoers a bit forlorn as they’d have to wait a while for the next edition of the Habitat Film Festival.