Shubhashish Bhutiani’s 20-minute drama about the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, ‘Kush’ has won the Best Short Film award at the 70th edition of the world’s oldest, Venice Film Festival in Italy.
It was the only Indian film to have made it to the Orizzonti (Horizons) section dedicated to new trends, which had 30 other films competing for a Jury Prize besides Best Film and Short Film at the August 28-September 7 festival.
The Hindi movie is about a lone Sikh boy named Kush in a group of 10-year-old at a school picnic, who is protected by a teacher as riots rage after the assassination of PM Indira Gandhi. Behind the movie, starring Shayaan Sameer as Kush and Sonika Chopra as the teacher, is a real-life inspiration and a 22-year-old Mumbai-born, Mussoorie-bred director, Bhutiani, who made it for graduation at New York’s School of Visual Arts. Bhutiani said the story was of his Class 11 economics teacher.
“She had told the story once in class. I was attracted because it commented on India as a country, but in a unique way —bleak, yet inspirational.” Bhutiani said the dark days remain: “There are still instances of violence against Sikhs and other religious identities.”
In the Orizzonti section, the award for Best Film went to ‘Eastern Boys’ by Robin Campillo (France), while the Jury Prize went to ‘Ruin’ by Michael Cody and Amiel Courtin-Wilson (Australia).
For those wanting to watch Kush, Bhutiani plans to put the movie online for free, though he told HT that a commercial release for the movie in India remained a dream. Made on a shoestring budget of less than Rs 10 lakh, ‘Kush’ also got the Best Innovative Budget Award for a Foreign Film given by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and Borsa Italiana.
The cast are friends and neighbours of Bhutiani’s parents in Mumbai, and the movie is shot on the city’s outskirts and in a national park. On how he entered the Venice fest, he said it was a suggestion from his doting dad, “I submitted it without expectation… Someone please tell me I'm not dreaming!”
In 2011, two Indian films – Bengali ‘Sonchidi’ (The Golden Bird) and Punjabi ‘Anhey Ghore Da Daan’ – were presented in Orizzonti section. ‘Anhey Ghore…’ later won three National Awards. Bhutiani plans to make a love story next.
Italian film ‘Sacro GRA’ about people living along the ring road around Rome won the Golden Lion for overall best film at the festival. In 1957, Indian film Aparajito by Satyajit Ray had won the Golden Lion, while Indian director Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding won in 2001.