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Indian short film ‘The School Bag’ based on 2014 Peshawar School Attack Wins ‘Best Short Film Award’ in Montreal

The film recreates events that happened in Peshawar in December 2014 when terrorists mowed down hundreds of school children.

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Rasika Dugal in a still from 'The School Bag'. Youtube

New Delhi, November 6, 2017 : Indian short film “The School Bag”, which tells a story based in Pakistan, has won the Best Short Film Award at the South Asian Film Festival of Montreal (SAFFM), says director Dheeraj Jindal.

“While making the film, each member of the team literally put their heart and soul and we didn’t know what will happen with the film. For many people, I included, it was the first experience working on a short film. So it’s a great feeling when your debut work gets international recognition,” Jindal told IANS.

SAFFM concluded on Sunday.

The movie’s plot is based in Peshawar and tells a story about the relationship between a mother and her seven-year-old son who wants a new school bag on his birthday, but fate has something else in store for him.

The film recreates events that happened in Peshawar in December 2014 when terrorists mowed down hundreds of school children.

Actress Rasika Dugal plays the mother in the short film.

Jindal, who is from Delhi, is happy that short films are getting visibility.

“In India, now there are platforms that are supporting and funding short films and because of that the quality of the films have drastically improved. The acclaimed actors have also started working in them as there are many good stories which don’t need to be long but can be as impacting as a feature film.

“Therefore, short films are becoming a serious business, which is going to grow further,” he said. (IANS)

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Singapore South Asian Film Festival 2017 to Celebrate South Asian Films This September

The SGSAIFF 2017 will be an amalgamation of exciting new voices and stories which richly bring out the culture of the South Asian countries.

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Singapore South Asian Film Festival
The Singapore South Asian Film Festival aims to establish closer ties between the global city of Singapore and the rapidly-developing countries of South Asia (representative image) Wikimedia
  • Singapore South Asian Films Festival to be held from September 1 to 10
  • The festival aims to support budding film-makers and promote the diversity and richness of the South Asian Diaspora through films
  • Various feature films, short films, and documentaries will compete and be showcased at the event

Singapore, August 25, 2017: The inaugural Singapore South Asian Film Festival (SGSAIF) will present movie fanatics in Singapore with a first-of-its-kind chance to experience the diversity of South Asian cultures on screen. With an impressive package of feature films, short films and documentaries, the festival which will begin from September 1 in Singapore, aims to pack a lot into ten days.

26 films are set to compete for the Best Feature Film, Best Documentary Film and Best Short Film at the fiesta which will be held from September 1 to 10.

The festival will have world premiers and screenings of over 35 feature films, short films, and documentaries from the Indian, Sri Lankan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal film industry. Additionally special screenings from Singapore will also make it to the choicest list of films.

Brilliant masterpieces from the film industries of South Asia have made it to the special screenings’ list. These films include,

  • Leena Yadav’s ‘Parched’
  • Afghani director Siddiq Barmak’s ‘Osama’, which was the recipient of the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film
  • Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s ‘Once Again’
  • And the critically acclaimed ‘A Yellow Bird’ by Singaporean director K. Rajagopal

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Apart from showcasing films, SGSAIFF will also hold workshops, master classes, panel discussions, and music performances. Apart from them, the event will also felicitate distinguished personalities from the industry for their outstanding contribution to cinema.

According to a report by IANS, the festival will also honor lyricist-writer Javed Akhtar with the South Asian Literary Award and his actress-wife Shabana Azmi with the South Asian Woman of the Year Award. Actor Abhay Deol will also be felicitated with the South Asian Icon of the Year Award.

Singapore South Asian Film Festival
Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi will also be felicitated at the event. Wikimedia

The festival is being organized by a global streaming service for world independent films called Muvizz, with aid from the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore and the High Commission of India in Singapore.

Abhayanand Singh, the Festival Chairman believes the Singapore South Asian Film Festival will be a landmark initiative, which will bring together quality South Asian cinema to Singapore for the first time. According to him, the aim of the festival is “to make a big impact and become a significant cultural gateway in the years to come,” he said, as mentioned in a report by PTI.

The gala, to be concluded on September 10, will also celebrate and host the red-carpet premier of the Nandita Das and Manav Kaul starrer Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyu Aata Hai, which has been directed by Soumitra Ranade.

The impact of cinema is not unknown. Tapping on this powerful medium, SGSAIFF aims to establish closer ties between Singapore and the fast-developing South Asian countries.

According to a report by IANS, the Artist Director of SGSAIFF, Amit Aggarwal believes the real challenge while selecting films for the festival was the creation of a program that could reflect the rich culture of South Asia. To him, the festival is a reflection of a program that is “truthful to the exciting new voices and stories which richly bring out the complexities of South Asia.”


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Cinema: How the Idea Turned into Reality!

Cinema was moving from an insecure business to a well established entertainment industry

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Turning of cinema into a reality
Eadweard Muybridge captures movement, the beginning of cinema. Wikimedia
“Films can heal! Not the world, of course, but our vision of it, and that’s already enough.” – Wim Wenders

New Delhi, July 19, 2017: The history of cinema dates back to the end of 1800. It was in 1827 that the first still photograph was taken, and in 1878 that Eadweard Muybridge succeeded in capturing movement after five years of continued efforts. Muybridge was asked to settle a bet as to whether horses hooves left the ground when they galloped. He showed this by setting up a bank of twelve cameras with trip-wires connected to their shutters, with each camera taking one picture when the horse tripped its wire. Muybridge developed a projector to present his finding. By 1891, Thomas A. Edison and his assistant W.K.L Dickson invented their Kinetograph camera, and after two years build a studio to produce films from it.

However, The Lumière family remained the biggest manufacturer of photographic plates in Europe. Brothers Louis and Auguste were once asked to make films which were cheaper than the ones sold by Edison. Louis and Auguste, eventually, designed a camera which served as both a recording device and a projecting device and called it the Cinématographe. The camera shot films at sixteen frames per second, against the forty-six which Edison used. Sixteen frames per second became the standard film rate for nearly 25 years.

Also read: Indian Cinema has gone beyond song-dance saga, for International Audience it is still about Cultural Reflection of larger than Life characters.

Until 1927, there was no sound included in the motion pictures. Motion pictures emphasized just on movement in their first phase. This era is referred to as the silent era of film. There with practically no plot or story either. One of the earliest movie “La Sortie des ouvriers de l’usine Lumière” (Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory), a documentary in its most elemental form, showed exactly what the name of the film suggests, a single shot of dozens of men and women, all of whom happen to be wearing hats, leaving a factory for the day. People in Paris were delighted by the early Lumiere presentations, drawing huge crowds.

The first few years of the motion pictures showed the cinema moving from an insecure business to an established large scale entertainment industry.

David Wark Griffith, One of the most dynamic early directors, produced literally hundreds of one-reelers in the period from 1908 to 1912. Griffith and others in the industry wanted to do something different than the regular but the owners were reluctant to change the style of limited story telling. For this reason, they moved to a rural area near Los Angeles. It was at this place, Hollywood, that Griffith and others began to work with long feature films, and eventually, Griffith happened to produce the first full-length feature film, “Birth of a Nation”.

Many countries after that started to get involved in serious film production. Russia began its film industry in 1908. In Italy, production was spread over a number of centres. In Northern Europe, Denmark was the most important film producing country. The Indian film production, as the centenary celebrations suggest, began in 1913. But as a matter of fact, from about 1910, American films share the largest market in all European countries except France.

Cinema indeed was an idea that turned into reality, in fact, a sophisticated reality. It has undergone, without a shadow of doubt, a long course of research, creation and innovation, and because of that, it stands where it is now.

– by Samiksha Goel of NewsGram. Twitter @goel_samiksha

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Exclusive: Indian origin Singapore-based producer of Award-winning film says Mithila Makhaan is just the beginning

Mithila Makhaan is the first Maithili language film to win National Award for the Best Feature Film. Samir's production house Ashwatha Tree Pvt Ltd in Singapore provides quality entertainment that inspires and brings about social change.

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National Award for Mithila Makhaan. Image source: NewsGram
NewsGram presents an exclusive tête-à-tête with the cast and crew of this year’s National Award winning Maithili film, Mithila Makhaan. In the first part of the series, Shillpi A Singh caught up with the movie’s Singapore-based producer Samir Kumar. Read on as he takes you to the magic of the moment on a glorious night, and shares his dreams of tomorrow and the wind of change that is blowing wild and free to give wings to the regional cinema, taking it many notches higher.
Ages ago, the Bard had said, “What’s in a name?” Perhaps, there’s a lot. A name adds certain qualities and values that a person inevitably happens to live with all through his life. And it is true for Singapore-based Samir Kumar whose first name when translated in Hindi means the wind. And he is living up to his name by bringing along a refreshing change in the world of regional cinema. A technocrat turned bureaucrat, he is currently an investment banker with a leading multinational bank in the Lion City.
Producer of the film Samir Kumar. Image source: NewsGram
Producer of the film Samir Kumar. Picture by SnR Dance&Events for NewsGram
A passionate movie buff, he has also forayed into film production. His production house’s debut outing, Mithila Makhaan, has won the National Award for the Best Feature Film in the Maithili language, a first of its kind honour for a regional language film from the twin states of Bihar and Jharkhand. Ecstatic and overwhelmed at this honour, he said, “It was great to receive the National Award. I had the privilege to speak to the Hon’ble President on the dais. I told him that this was the first Maithili film to win an award. And he politely responded, ‘Yes, I know’. The President wished me good luck. His kind words are still ringing in my ears. This recognition is our biggest motivation; it has raised the bar for all of us and we would keep up the good work in our future endeavours.”
A Good Start, A Good Beginning
Born in Bihar’s capital, Patna, Samir grew up in Sasaram, the second most literate city in the state, completing his studies till Class 12 from the state Board there. A brilliant student, he cleared the tough entrance exam and entered the hallowed portals of India’s top-notch technological institute, the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, in 1997. After completing his undergraduate degree in mining with top grades from IIT-Kgp, he was engaged as a Consultant with the Ministry of Coal, Government of India, for a short stint. From there, he moved on to pursue a management course at the premier management college, the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, in 2002. Armed with the best of degrees, Samir was flooded with offers from companies, both in India and abroad. He chose to work overseas for a while but the best of monetary compensation could not lure him to stay there for long; he yearned to do something for his motherland. Samir returned to India in 2009 to take the Civil Services exam for he thought it would give him an opportunity to make a difference at the grassroots level. The global exposure in his previous assignments stood him in good stead and he cleared UPSC exams in the first attempt itself, but the bureaucratic tag wasn’t enough to hold him to the coveted position for long. Realising that the allied service would not provide him with the kind of opportunities that he was looking for to serve the country, he put in his papers in 2010. “The wind then moved to foreign shores, and for good,” he laughed, fondly reminiscing how he moved to Singapore after dabbling in bureaucracy for a while. Today he is the Director of an international bank in the island state.
Reel-ty Check
He established his production house Ashwatha Tree Pvt Ltd in Singapore to provide quality entertainment that inspires and brings about social change. It may come as a surprise to many that the firm is owned and funded by Samir from his hard-earned income. “Every penny spent by Ashwatha Tree is well accounted. While making the film, I made it a point to keep the accounts clear by making all the financial dealings, big or small, through cheque. It was quite unusual for the industry. But that is how I wanted it. So it was,” he said.
It is the first Maithili film to be extensively shot in the US, Canada, India and Nepal. “There were certain budgetary constraints and operational challenges while making the film, but as they say, all is well that ends well. The Award has made us forget all the lows that we encountered en route our dream of making a sleek movie in Maithili,” said the filmmaker. The film has been produced by Neetu Chandraa’s Champaran Talkies and Samir’s Ashwatha Tree and co-produced by Illuminant Films.
The Dream Seller
But what prompted him to foray into films? “I am a financial markets trader by the day and a film producer by night,” he said with a chuckle. He quickly added, “I am passionate about making movies. I have been learning the nuances of digital film-making as a hobby. Nitin Neera Chandra is a dear friend. I met him two years ago. We bonded well as two of us have common interests — to do something meaningful for the region from where we hail. One thing led to another and Mithila Makhaan happened. And today here we are with the Award in our hand.”
Apart from bagging the National Award for its first Maithili film, Ashwatha Tree has also produced a Hindi film, Once Upon a Time in Bihar, which was a remake of the award-winning Bhojpuri film Deswa. Chandra directed the film starring Ashish Vidyarthi, Pankaj Jha, Arti Puri, Kranti Prakash Jha and Deepak Singh in the lead roles and it was released last year.
Talking about his association with Samir, Chandra said, “I was ready with the story of Mithila Makhaan in 2012 but failed miserably in scouting for financiers. Samir was the first one to come on-board and readily agreed to invest money in this film. I will always be grateful to him for believing in me and my vision.”
It’s Made in India
The award-winning Maithili film is an honest attempt to make a good film in a regional language that is spoken by millions across Bihar, neighbouring Nepal and many other countries of the world. “The film showcases the best of Maithili culture and encourages entrepreneurial spirit among the youth of the region and in a way promotes the idea of Make in India. The Mithilanchal region in Bihar is famous for the Madhubani paintings. It is the largest producer of fox nuts and betel leaves, and a meal for Maithils is incomplete without a generous helping of fish, all of which are an integral part of the Maithili culture,” said Samir.
Big Screen Outing   
The film that stars Pankaj Jha, Anurita Jha and Kranti Prakash Jha has been written and directed by Nitin Neera Chandra and is all set to hit the theatres in September this year. About the plot, he said, “Mithila Makhaan is the story of a young entrepreneur Kranti Prakash, who is based in the downtown financial district of Toronto, miles away from his mother and motherland. On his mother’s insistence, he returns to his native village Darbhanga, Bihar, after 23 years to perform a family ritual. But he is shocked to find that a lot has changed, and not for the good. The Kosi deluge of 2008 has devastated his village. The turn of events during his stay in the village changes his life forever. It is a story of the astute young man’s grit and determination to bring a change in the region, instil pride in the younger generation and revive its glorious past.”
Film Poster. Image source: NewsGram
Film Poster. Image source: NewsGram
Cinema Wise
In some measures, regional cinema often gets a step-motherly treatment from the film-goers and filmmakers alike. The language is spoken and understood by millions, but all those people seldom watch a film in the regional language. This apathy affects the box-office collection. The returns are often minimal as compared to the investments. The lack of infrastructural support for small and medium budget filmmakers has created an unsustainable environment for regional cinema to flourish, especially in Bihar, he said. The other obstacles are online availability of films, piracy, poor marketing and apathy of multiplexes, all of which act as spoilers. But the wind of change is blowing straight into the face of time for regional films in Bihar and Jharkhand. “This movie aims to change that popular perception. It is a baby step in the right direction,” he said.
Future Perfect
The production house is busy with Mithila Makhaan’s release later this year. “But apart from this, there are a few regional language and Hindi films in the pipeline. The team is currently working on those ideas,” he said about his upcoming projects. The filmmaker believes that things are indeed looking up for regional cinema but there is a lot of work to be done to make it popular in the country. He added, “we need good stories, catchy themes that will have an instant connect with the audience, lilting music, soulful lyrics, crisp editing and sharp camera work but all of it set against the backdrop of the twin states with an enviable star cast that will help pull crowds to the theatres.”
On an optimistic note, Samir said, “A closer look at the issues grappling regional cinema in our state can help in setting up a global film industry there. I have submitted a paper to the state government with my thoughts and I am hoping that it is being reviewed.” If it is so, then it will herald good times for regional cinema in twin states that will go a long way in creating meaningful movies from the region.
To cater to the global audience, he has big plans. “The films — Deswa and Once Upon a Time in Bihar — will be available on Muvizz.com, a platform for independent cinema and a boon for cinephiles, in July this year. Mithila Makhaan will also be available there but a little later,” he said.
It’s Trending 
Being the first Maithili film to be feted with the National Award has made people keen and eager to watch Mithila Makhaan on the big screen. “Also, the National Award and its outing at the international film circuits may bring about a welcome change in the way the masses and classes will perceive and receive it,” he said. The film has managed to create the right buzz among the Maithilis across the world. Anupama Jha Kumar, an entrepreneur, model and accomplished classical dancer, who is working for a media company in Singapore, said, “Mithila region is rich in history, customs, food, music, language, literature and art. For Maithils, life is a celebration and this film has given us another reason to rejoice. The film will promote the ancient culture by taking it to a global platform. I am anxiously waiting for its release.”
Livin’ it Up 
A globetrotter, Samir has worked and stayed in different cities but having lived in Singapore for eight years now, he calls the Garden City his second home and has decided to stay put here with his entrepreneur wife Tulika and two lovely children till life takes him someplace else. He has come a long way, traversing the arduous distance from Sasaram to Singapore, but there is no resting on his laurels yet. “The journey has just started. I have miles to go.”
The winds are blowing and Samir is busy harnessing the change and ready to sail off on another adventure. Watch out, world!
In part two of the series, NewsGram catches up with Mithila Makhaan’s Director Nitin Neera Chandra, who has also written  story, screenplay, dialogues for the film. Watch out for this space!
The author can be reached at shilpi.devsingh@gmail.com 
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