The 12th Osian’s Cinefan Film Festival opened at Siri Fort on Friday evening with a Japanese anime, Asura. Based on a controversially violent Manga by George Akiyama, who created it in 1970-71, Asura is a piece set in Japan’s Kyoto in the middle of a tragedy-driven 15th century. In times of catastrophic floods, drought and famine with 80,000 people dying, a period that heralded a frightening civil war, Asura is born and abandoned by his mother.
In his struggle to survive in the wild, Asura learns to fight and kill, turning into a beast. Director Keiichi Sato weaves the story of human resilience and love to show how the care of a young woman calms the little boy, who experiences for the first time what seems like maternal affection. Complimenting this is a monk who plays father to the child.
Often violent – as most Manga comics tend to be – Asura is a study in blood and gore of a boy who reminds us how damning Nature can be. There are hints of the recent Tsunami in Japan and its effects on relationships. How do men and women – even children – behave when they face perils from the sea and land? Japan is known for its legendary humility and consideration as it is also for its violent streak of destruction. Sato contrasts these in his animated work, but as much as it was a powerful and moving work, I wondered whether this was an apt opening movie.
The start of the 10-day Festival brought back memories of a time when Siri Fort played host to the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) every January. Eight years ago, the Festival found a permanent home in Goa’s Panaji, on the banks of the Mandovi. Has Panaji been able to capture the spirit and essence of Delhi? This is a question that has been haunting not only the Directorate of Film Festivals, which organises IFFI, but all those innumerable movie buffs who treated the Festival as a kind of annual cinema pilgrimage and Delhi as its focal point.
Osian’s Cinefan plans a global summit in the coming days on whether Delhi is India’s next film city. The Directorate and IFFI – and many, many others – would be keenly watching this.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering Osian’s Cinefan Film Festival)