One of India’s most renowned directors, Girish Kasaravalli, came into the New Indian Wave in 1977 with his Ghatashraddha (Ritual). The movie -- a story about a young widow seduced by a schoolteacher, looks at caste divisions in the 1920s Karnataka -- was widely applauded both within and outside the country.
Now here at the ongoing International Film Festival of India with his latest work, Kurmavatara (The Tortoise, An Incarnation), Kasaravalli continues with his cinematic journey dotted as it is with modern maladies. Kurmavatara is an interesting take on Gandhi and his principles.
Kasaravalli’s protagonist is an ageing pen-pusher in a government organisation who is suddenly transported from his humdrum, unsung existence to a world where he is sought after, where his worth is felt. Approached by the director of a television series on Gandhi to play the lead, the very Mahatma himself, the government employee — whose only criterion to be under the arc lamps is his uncanny resemblance to the slain leader — finds himself torn by temptation and demands.
Kasaravalli, who thought of making this movie after he saw the Anna Hazare movement, says that it is very difficult to follow Gandhian ideology today. For, Gandhi preached business without profit. How can you ever do this today?
Kurmavatara, which is one of the 20 features films in different languages in the Festival’s star section, Indian Panorama, is yet to be theatrically released, although it has travelled to several foreign festivals, including Toronto and Vancouver. But it will probably never open in the cinemas – not just in Karnataka, but also elsewhere in India.
This is why Kasaravalli and others suggest that the Indian Panorama must be taken all over the country. With the State owned Doordarshan suspending its long practice of screening the Panorama movies, the Directorate of Film Festivals, which organises the Festival in Goa, must step in. A mini festival of Panorama fare should be screened in at least the major Indian cities.
Kasaravalli says Indian movies made in a variety of languages are wonderfully rich and diverse. And, every Indian must get an opportunity to watch them, and with theatres reluctant to screen a film in a language other than Hindi or English or that of the State concerned, it is almost impossible now to watch, let us say, a Bengali movie in Chennai or a Tamil movie in Assam.
A travelling Panorama can help be a great boon.