Two Indian films, a black comedy and a debut feature, both from award winning powerhouses; will premiere at the 47th edition of the prestigious Berlin Film Festival in February. The films are Dhrishyam’s “Newton” helmed and co-written by Amit V Masurkar and “Loktak Lairembee” (Lady of the Lake) the award-winning debut from Manipuri documentary film-maker Haobam Paban Kumar which will be screened in the Berlinale Forum with 41 films.
For producer-director Kumar’s debut in the Manipuri language, the Berlinale will mark its European premier.”Loktak Lairembee” has been screened at various film fests including the 47th International Film Festival of India in Goa, the 21st Busan Film Festival in South Korea, the 18th Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI), where it won the Golden Gateway Award for Best Indian Film, the 22nd Kolkata International Film Festival, 2016 where it won the Netpac award and the just concluded 15th International Film Festival, Pune where it bagged the Special Jury Award.
Kumar’s film features a real life couple Ningthoujam Sanatomba and Sagolsam Thambasang in the lead roles and was shot in its entirety on Loktak Lake – the largest fresh water lake in North East India. Loktak has a unique ecosystem whereby the fishing community lives in huts built on a floating biomass called Phumdis. In 2011, the authorities burnt down hundreds of huts leaving thousands homeless.
Sanatomba, one of the victims, is plagued by nightmares of displacement and perpetual homelessness. In his makeshift hut, the fisherman has forebodings of evil even as his wife Thambalsang works hard to make a living. One fine day he finds a gun hidden within the biomass. Not long after, a mysterious old woman knocks at his door in the middle of the night. Fearing the woman is an evil spirit, Sanatomba resorts to violence.
Delighted on Berlinale being the 11th Film Festival for his debut feature, five time National Award winner Kumar says, “I have been making documentaries for the last 10-12 years. But when you do your first fiction feature film, you are under lot of pressure. I am lucky and look forward to being in Berlin.”
“Newton”, Masurkar’s second film after the sleeper hit Sulemani Keeda in 2014, is a trenchant black comedy that revolves around a rookie clerk on election duty in a conflict-ridden jungle of Chhattisgarh, who tries his best to conduct free and fair voting despite the apathy of security forces and the looming fear of an attack by Maoist rebels. Starring Rajkummar Rao of Aligarh and Queen fame, in the titular role, “Newton” will enjoy a red carpet with the cast and crew and be screened in the International Forum of New Cinema, a section of the Berlinale showcasing avant-garde, experimental works, and political reportage. The cast of “Newton” includes Anjali Patil (of Mirzya fame), Pankaj Tripathi (of Gangs of Wasseypur fame) and Raghubir Yadav (veteran actor from Peepli Live).
“Newton” was part of the Co-Production Market at NFDC Film Bazaar 2015 and was also one of the Film Bazaar Recommends titles at Film Bazaar last year. Interestingly, all of Drishyam’s productions have had world premieres at leading international film festivals.
Masaan, directed by Neeraj Ghaywan premiered at the Cannes Film Festival 2015 where it won the FIPRESCI International Jury of Film Critics prize and the Promising Future Prize in the Un Certain Regard section. Umrika won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival 2015. “Newton” marks Drishyam’s second world premiere at Berlinale after Nagesh Kukunoor’s Dhanak (Rainbow) which premiered in 2015 and received a special mention from the Berlinale jury.
Says Masurkar, “Newton is a political film with a generous helping of quirky, dark humour which reflects the absurdity of the world we live in. We’re sure it will resonate with audiences at home and abroad.”