The 10th Dubai International Film Festival will celebrate the 100th year of Indian cinema. The nine-day event - to open on December 6 - is perhaps the only festival that will offer a fair representation of Indian cinema as a whole. Most others have been Bollywood or Hindi centric, including last May's Cannes. Dubai will screen a Bengali and a Malayalam movie besides two films in the Hindi language.
Renowned Bengali director Suman Mukhopadhyay adapts one of Rabindranath Tagore's gems, Shesher Kobita (The Last Poem) to present a sweetly poignant romantic story set on the mist covered hills of Shillong.
With an exciting star cast of Rahul Bose and Konkana Sen Sharma (the pair was earlier seen in Aparna Sen's critically acclaimed Mr & Mrs Iyer), the plot weaves around a relationship between Amit Ray -- an Oxford-educated barrister who is violently opposed to every form of tradition and spiritualism -- and Labanya -- a epitome of simplistic virtues. Curiously, they meet during a car accident, which seems like a harbinger of what is to come. Mukhopadhyay uses a series of Tagore's poems to build the drama.
From Kerala, Dubai will have Shaji N Karun's Swapaanam (The Voiding Soul) which explores the pain and pathos of a temple drummer, destined to die like the flame of an oil lamp. Unni, played by the popular Jayaram, is a victim of jealousy and ego. As his life and passion for percussion begins to ebb away, the spirited Mohiniattam dancer Nalini (Kadambari) discovers the artistic excellence in him and together they traverse life, defying society and its systems.
We then have the Cannes screener, Amit Kumar's Monsoon Shootout (Hindi), a dark thriller narrated with style and intrigue. With an ensemble cast of Nawazuddin Siddiqui (The Lunch Box) and Tannishtha Chatterjee among others, the movie explores the impact one's man choices may have on others. Monson Shootout plays out in Mumbai's mafia "mohallas" even as heavy rains mercilessly maim the city.
Adi, a gun-toting rookie cop, learns to banish the moral conflicts from his head through a scintillatingly edgy performance in this rollercoaster ride of a film that blurs the line between the moral and the amoral.
Independent helmer and writer Madhureeta Anand's hard-hitting feature Kajarya laments the struggle of India's women, examining horrific practices like female foeticide and infanticide. Marvellously authentic in feel - shot in the actual locations of these incidents and with real-life characters - Kajarya unfolds in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
In a recent interview to the media, Anand said that her journey into Kajaria began when her daughter was born. The birth opened Anand to the deep-seated prejudice against the baby girl that still exists in 21st century India.
Anand averred: "As a matter of fact, I started witnessing many things around me, including the harsh reality of women undergoing random abortions so that they can blatantly eliminate girls from the generations to come. And shockingly, these were high-class women from well-to-do families. It inevitably set me into thinking about the sheer hypocrisy of a society which talks about women's liberation while in the closet, kills a girl-child foetus."
(Gautaman Bhaskaran has covered several editions of the Dubai International Film Festival)