Until a few years ago, the Stuttgart festival in southern Germany was called “Bollywood and beyond”, a celebration of mainstream Indian cinema, with auteur films on the sidelines. But the standard song-and-dance theater was starting to cost the organizers of the annual Stuttgart event.
“This Bollywood factor, you can clearly tell now, was a huge industry and as a small festival in Stuttgart we couldn’t keep up,” says festival spokesman Hans-Peter Jahn. Bollywood movie producers often charge high prices for big movies, and it would have been impossible to pitch an actor from those movies in Stuttgart, he explained.
However, Bollywood’s big movie era seems to be waning and new, more engaged filmmakers are showing their films, Jahn added. Luckily, the pandemic-induced lockdowns proved a boon for low-budget filmmakers, who also benefited from national and global exposure on streaming websites like Amazon Prime and Netflix.
The festival also brings together German fans of Indian cinema
The day of the underdogs in the sun
This year’s selection offers a wide variety of works from almost all parts of India. One of the highlights of the festival is the Oscar-winning documentary directed by Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas, “Writing with Fire”.
The film chronicles the struggle of the women who run “Khabar Lahariya” (Hindi for “Waves of news”), a newspaper in rural northern India. For many people living in the area, the newspaper is an independent source of information. The newspaper was also honored for outstanding work by DW at the Global Media Forum in 2014.
Other entries this year include director Irfana Majumdar’s “Shankar’s Fairies,” which tells the story of a master-servant relationship across generations.
“Tangra Blues” is a rap musical in Bengali. It tells the stories of children from the slums of Kolkata who want to succeed in life.
Directed by Manjari Makiani, “Skater Girl” tells a similar story, about a girl who wants to challenge her village’s restrictive culture that keeps female family members from leaving home and marrying them off early.
A highlight of this year’s event is “Jhund” (Hindi for herd), which features Indian superstar Amitabh Bachchan, and is based on the life of Vijay Barse, who founded the NGO Slum Soccer in Nagpur. , in western India.
Another “must-see” recommendation from the organizers is the film “Adieu Godard” by director Amartya Bhattacharya, about a man from a village in Bengal, who usually watches porn movies every night. One day, he accidentally borrows a video from French director Jean Luc Godard and becomes addicted to his films. He then proposed a Godard film festival in his village, creating confusion and controversy.
Manish Saini’s film “Gandhi & Co,” about two children who like to play pranks, revisits the importance of the Mahatma’s culture.
South Indian films include director Shyamaprasad’s “Kasiminte Kadal” about a teenager who is forced to move to a seaside town with his terminally ill father. Another is “Karma Café”, by Vinod Bharathan, about a man who returns from abroad and has to prove himself to the outside world.
Shorts include “Bedsores” by Navin Chandra Ganes; the documentary depicts the life of the Banchhada tribesmen in central India, where the birth of girls is considered lucky.
Devashish Makhija’s “Cheepatakadumpa” takes viewers through the lives of three male friends who openly talk about their sexual experiences.
One of India’s legendary actors: Amitabh Bachchan in a 1981 film still
At the end of the festival on July 24, jury members will announce the winners in three categories, including Best Feature Film, Best Documentary and Best Short Film. The winners of the first category will receive €4,000, while the other two categories will receive a prize of €1,000 each.
Curator of Indian Film Medal
The Stuttgart Indian Film Festival is organized annually by the Filmbüro Baden Württemberg. The main sponsor of the event is Andreas Lapp, entrepreneur and Honorary Consul of Baden-Württemberg for the Republic of India. This year, organizers are also paying tribute to the festival’s curator, Mumbai-based Uma da Cunha, who has been curating films for the event for almost two decades.
Uma da Cunha (left) has been organizing the festival for almost two decades
The curator will receive the Baden-Württemberg State Staufer Medal from Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann on July 20. Since the late 1970s, da Cunha has helped organize Indian film festivals abroad, including in Toronto and Busan, and is the founding advisor to 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 member of the Cannes Film Festival jury in the Un Certain Regard category.