Four Bengali-made films — actor-director Parambrata Chatterjee’s Abhijaan, starring late Bengali actor Soumitra Chatterjee; filmmaker Suman Ghosh’s Searching for Happiness; the documentary Swimming Through the Darkness by Supriyo Sen; and stage and film director Suman Mukhopadhyay’s first Hindi film Nazarband — are being showcased at the London Indian Film Festival 2021.
These films have been chosen to mark legendary director Satyajit Ray’s birth centenary at the 12th edition of the LIFF that is currently taking place in the UK from June 17 to July 4, said programme adviser Sangeeta Dutta.
Premiering on Friday (June 26), Abhijaan is the first biopic paying tribute to the legendary actor Soumitra Chatterjee. It explores the life and work of the actor, from his first foray into acting as the lead character ‘Apu’ in Satyajit Ray’s Apur Sansar, to countless other classic roles he portrayed across his long distinguished career. In the Parambrata Chatterjee-directorial, Soumitra Chatterjee tells his own story, accompanied by other stalwarts of Bengali cinema such as Jisshu Sengupta, Rudranil Ghosh, Qaushiq Mukherjee, Prosenjit Chatterjee, Paoli Dam, and several others.
Filmmaker Ghosh’s Searching For Happiness, starring Shahida Neera, Sudiptaa Chakraborty and her daughter, had its world premiere at the Miami International Film Festival in March, followed by a virtual screening at the New York Indian Film Festival in June, before making it to LIFF 2021. As per LIFF’s synopsis, it is a beautiful and tender tale about the many journeys people take in the quest for joy in a complex world. Four-year-old Shahida runs away from home in search of a red balloon that she calls “happiness”. She earlier floats it away after painting a smile on it, hoping to spread happiness across the world, but soon realises she misses her “happiness”. As she roams the hazardous streets of Kolkata, she comes across different characters, who are all are searching for their own forms of happiness.
The National award-winning documentary Swimming Through Darkness, directed by Kolkata-based documentary filmmaker Sen, had its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival 2018. It is a sports documentary that follows the eventful, and at times chaotic, life of blind swimmer Kanai Chakraborty. Despite the reservations of his family, Kanai decides to participate in the world’s longest swimming competition in the Ganges River to demonstrate the power of disabled people.
Based on a short story by Indian novelist and Bengali poet Ashapurna Devi, Mukhopadhyay’s debut Hindi film Nazarband (Captive) narrates the story of Vasanti who is released after five years of imprisonment. On realising that her husband has not come to receive her, she begrudgingly teams up with Chandu, a male ex-con released on the same day. Together they embark on a quest to find her family. As the pair struggle through the streets of Kolkata, their dependency on each other grows as their search becomes increasingly perilous.
There is also a category of competition for short films at the LIFF 2021 called the annual Satyajit Ray Short Film Competition. It is a platform to display the works of talented and emerging filmmakers exploring themes of South Asian experience in different ways that reflect the humanist ideals of Ray.
Other Indian films showcased at the festival this year include Manju Warrier’s Kayattam (A’hr), Adil Hussain’s Lorni, the Marathi films Court and Bittersweet, late actor Irrfan Khan’s The Warrior, the Odiya film Kalira Atita (Yesterday’s Past), the Tamil film Koozhangal (Pebbles), the Hindi films WingMan (The Universal Irony of Love), Aise Hee (Just Like That), and Mughal-E-Azam, among several other South Asian films.
The festival also includes a ‘special strand’ this year on ‘Great British Asian filmmakers’ as part of which they will be honouring director Asif Kapadia (The Warrior, Amy, Senna), and writer Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette, The Buddha of Suburbia).
The 12th edition of LIFF is being held both virtually and on screens due to the coronavirus pandemic.