Sumitra Bhave, director of Kaavas (XIA YUANYUAN)
India's commercial film industry, popularly known as Bollywood, is known for its maverick offerings. On June 26, the penultimate day of the Second BRICS Film Festival, celebrated as the Indian Film Day, veteran actor, activist and producer Dr. Mohan Agashe acted outside the script to come down from the dais and drape a traditional Indian woolen scarf around the neck of Zhang Pimin, Vice President of China Alliance of Radio, Film and Television, to express India's appreciation of China's role as the perfect host of the second edition of the film festival.
"It was totally out of my expectations," a moved Zhang told Beijing Review. "I am very happy to be the recipient of the kind gesture that shows the friendship between the filmmakers of our two countries. Due to the film festival, we have had the opportunity to have close contacts with our Indian friends."
The Indian Film Day in Chengdu, capital city of Sichuan Province in southwest China and host of the five-day festival that was inaugurated on June 23, started with the screening of Kaasav (Turtle), a film directed by social scientist Sumitra Bhave with Sunil Sukthankar.
Poster of Kaasav (2017BFF.COM)
Made in Marathi, an Indian regional language, and as different from the commercially successful Bollywood films as imaginable, the film deals with the issues of depression, especially in the youth, leading to suicidal tendencies and isolation.
"Depression and suicide are a major universal problem," Agashe, a psychiatrist whose work led to the founding of two major mental health institutions in India's Mahasrasthra State, said. "In recognition of the severity of the problem, the World Health Organization declared Fight Depression as the theme of 2017."
The turtle is a metaphor for a young man who withdraws into himself and becomes isolated, passive and even violent. The film, which seeks to explore real people's lives and focus on universal values and non-violence, also weaves in conservation issues.
Besides the common theme of depression, it runs parallel to China's endangered wildlife conservation efforts.
On the previous day, the Indian delegations for the film festival were taken to a panda base in Chengdu, home to the endangered bears, to see the iconic animals that are also a face of China abroad. The museum in the enclosure gave the visitors, many of whom had never seen a panda in the flesh before, a wealth of information about the animal and China's efforts to protect the species.
Kaasav highlights the effort by conservationists to protect the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle, an endangered species. In an incredible tale of nature's doings, the turtle, though it lives in the sea, comes to the seashore in eastern India every year to lay its eggs and goes back into the sea. When the hundreds of eggs hatch, the baby turtles instinctively crawl back into the sea.
"Before I watched the film, I didn't know that India had different languages or such natural phenomena," Qiu Lin, a Chinese film lover who has been watching the BRICS films at the festival, said.
India has sent six entries to the festival, according to Ashok Parmar, Joint Secretary (Films) at the Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. While both the films entered in the competition, the results of which would be announced on June 27, are regional language films on offbeat subjects, mainstream Indian cinema would be represented by Bahubali: The Beginning and its sequel.
The film, a top-grossing superhero saga about two brothers becoming sworn enemies that is also a period and costume drama with a larger-than-life canvas in the tradition of Hollywood, had also been released in China commercially.
Two more Indian films to be screened in the noncompetitive classic section include Awara (The Trump), a 1951 film whose songs are sung in China, Russia and Kazakhstan.
With over 2,000 feature films made in a year, Bollywood is one of the biggest film industries in the world, buoyed by the domestic market.
Parmar said India has signed film co-production agreements with 11 countries, including China and Brazil while negotiations are ongoing for audiovisual cooperation with Russia and South Africa.
(Reporting from Chengdu)
Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar
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