Despite winning the national award for the best investigative film in 2011, filmmakers Kavitha Bahl and Nandan Saxena were unable to convince channels to telecast ‘Cotton for My Shroud’, their awardwinning documentary on the genocide of farmers in Vidarbha, Maharashtra.
“All television channels, including Doordarshan, that were supposed to telecast the documentary, refused, because anybody who speaks for the farmers is unfortunately considered antinational in this country,” says Saxena.
However, the city of Chandigarh did not let them down. ‘Cotton for My Shroud’ was screened at a three-day film festival called ‘Chandigarh da filmi adda’ in August 2013 by Chandigarh Creative Cinema Circle, better known as 4C.
4C was founded in August 2012 by three friends, Harish (27) and Sawan (28), both of who go by their first name, besides Atma Prakash Mishra (42). Mishra is an engineer by profession. Sawan is a visual artist and Harish is an advocate at the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The trio founded 4C with the aim of promoting independent or indie cinema in the city.
Screening every second Saturday
“Beyond mainstream cinema, there is a lot of creative work going on. However, independent filmmakers lack the resources to reach out to a wider audience. We want people to experience movies that are highly creative and intense, but are unable to find patronage elsewhere,” says Harish. On the second Saturday of every month, 4C screens indie movies in a session called
‘Weekend with a Filmmaker’ (WWFM) at the Government Museum and Art Gallery, Sector 10, Chandigarh, which is followed by an interaction between the filmmaker and the audience.
“The space for a discourse on alternative cinema in the city is shrinking. So, we developed this format wherein filmmakers could interact with their audience postscreening. The whole idea of this format is to initiate a dialogue,” says Harish.
Harsem Singh Sidhu, another member of 4C, says, “Cinema impacts us on a deeper level. When you go to multiplexes, you don’t always reflect on serious issues. With alternative cinema, you can address serious issues. We focus on movies that adapt a different tone to address an issue like minority rights.”
Three-day fest in August
Several documentaries, including ‘Cotton for My Shroud’, ‘Sham Public Hearing: The real face of Vedanta’ by Surya Shankar Dash (a documentary on the struggle of the Dongria Kondh tribe against the Vedanta project in Niyamgiri Hills, Orissa), ‘Shuttlecock Boys’ by Hemant Gaba (a movie that traces the entrepreneurial journey of four friends united by their love for badminton), have been screened by 4C during the last two years.Apart from screening movies every month, 4C also organises a week-long workshop in August every year, where experts from film schools are invited to train aspirants in film making. The workshop is followed by the film festival, ‘Chandigarh da filmi adda’, where indie movies from Delhi, Orissa, Kolkata, Tamil Nadu and Mumbai are screened.
The film festival will be held this August as well, adds Harish.
Movies rooted in reality
“4C has developed a culture, where movies that are not readily available in the market are being screened,” says 43-year-old Daljit Ami, whose independent films on diverse subjects such as the World War 1 and the Kiranjit Kaur rape case of 1997, have regularly been screened by 4C. Simar Onkar (45), a psychotherapist, who attends WWFM regularly, believes that alternative cinema is more powerful than the mainstream cinema. “The films screened here are unique and I use them in my psychotherapy sessions with police officers,” he adds. Hashaan Sharma, a final year student of bachelors of engineering (biotechnology) at Panjab University, feels that the mainstream media gives a distorted picture of several issues like the Kashmir separatist movement, whereas indie movies screened here show the ground reality.
Hemant Gaba, whose movie ‘Shuttlecock Boys’ was screened by 4C soon after its release in August 2012, says that such initiatives by people in cities like Chandigarh are steadily rewriting the distribution norms of independent cinema in India.
He, however, says that members of forums like 4C and others across the country painstakingly shell out money from their own pockets for organising film festivals. He feels that such forums need to develop a sustainable model that fosters the growth of independent cinema and simultaneously generates revenues. He feels the government should extend a helping hand to such forums across India for organising film festivals and screenings. However, Surya Shankar Dash disagrees. He says, “Government-owned forums like Films Division of India and National Film Development Corporation of India, have their limitations. The reason the independent cinema movement came up in the first place was to look beyond state or corporatesponsored forums and retain artistic and political freedom of expression. For a filmmaker, a crowd funded, pro-active people’s initiative is always more welcome than any other kind.”