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Beyond Bollywood

Friday, March 27, 2015
By Deepa Gahlot

There has been an outpouring of good wishes and affection for Shashi Kapoor, who is the recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for Lifetime Achievement. He is the third member of the Kapoor family after father Prithviraj Kapoor and brother Raj Kapoor to receive this honour from the Government of India. Shammi Kapoor deserved it, but missed out.

Apart from his many films as actor and producer (and one as director), Shashi Kapoor’s greatest contribution to the city is Prithvi Theatre, which, since its establishment in 1978, has been supporting and nurturing theatre. Shashi Kapoor and his wife, the late Jennifer Kendal built the theatre with love, and years later, it is still the favourite of the theatre community in India.  

Shashi Kapoor is not just a great star, he is also a wonderful human being—nobody in the industry would have a word to say against him; wins over everyone he meets with his down-to-earth charm.

This year’s National Awards have once again indicated that Marathi cinema is still on a high. So many fine films that take up causes, tell great stories and entertain too. Alternative cinema in Hindi seldom gets the blend right.

The best film this year, was Court by Chaitanya Tamhane, which has been winning accolades at film festivals in India and abroad. The story is about Narayan Kamble (Vira Sathidar), a teacher and folk singer, who is arrested for abetting the suicide of a sewage worker. The ridiculous charge is that after listening to one of Kamble’s radical songs, the worker killed himself by going into a manhole to kill himself. The courtroom drama exposes not just our absurd legal system, but many other kinks in Indian society. It’s Chaitanya Tamhane’s first film, and here’s a filmmaker to watch out for.

The best Marathi film Killa, also an international award winner, also a debut film by Avinash Arun is about an 11-year-old Indian boy (Archit Davadhar) who loses his father and is forced to adapt to a new school in a small village when his mother (Amruta Subhash) is transferred. A brilliant film about rural life and a young boy’s rite of passage.

The best children’s film award was shared by Paresh Mokashi’s charming Elizabeth Ekadashi about a little boy’s devotion to a bicycle that belonged to his dead father, and the lengths to which he goes to save it when his financially strapped mother needs to sell the cycle.

The special jury mention went to Bhaurao Karhade’s Khwada about a family of shepherds leaving their village and going to the city, a film for which the director sold his family’s land to get funds.

These filmmakers, with a fraction of the resources that Bollywood blows up on promoting second rate films, make cinema India can be proud of.

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