Beijing film fest puts Satyajit Ray’s Apu trilogy in ‘Belt and Road’ group
One of China’s top film festivals has clubbed five Indian films, including Satyajit Ray’s 1955 landmark, Pather Panchali, under the category of movies from countries that are seemingly aligned with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the multi-billion dollar Chinese connectivity project that New Delhi has consistently declined to join as it violates India’s territorial sovereignty.
The high-profile Beijing International Film Festival (BIFF) that is scheduled to be held between April 13 and April 20 is organised by the Beijing municipality government.
The five Indian movies included in the “Belt and Road” category are the three Ray movies comprising the famous Apu Trilogy (Pather Panchali, Aparajito and Apur Sansar), the romantic comedy Love per Square Foot, the thriller Ittefaq, and the Mumbai-based movie, Sir, which explores the ties between a domestic help and her young and wealthy employer.
Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan’s Zero is the designated closing movie at the festival.
Ray and his Apu Trilogy occupy a place of pride in India’s rich cinematic history, and the decision to co-opt them into the “Belt and Road” category in the festival will be irksome to many in India.
There are 21 movies in the category from countries like Italy - which recently became the first G7 country to join the BRI - Iran, Philippines, Peru, Colombia, and Syria.
The Indian movies were chosen following discussions between the festival organisers and film producers and distributors.
It wasn’t clear whether the decision was an oversight or deliberate; the festival has multiple categories under which more than 250 films will be screened.
The Beijing government’s information office didn’t respond to a query on the rationale behind adding Indian movies under the BRI category.
India has consistently distanced itself from President Xi Jinping-launched BRI as its flagship project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), passes through Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir (PoK).
New Delhi is very likely to keep away from the second high-profile Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation to be held in Beijing later this month.
In February, Indian envoy to China, Vikram Misri had told the state media in an interview about why India has kept away from the BRI.
“Above all, connectivity initiatives must be pursued in a manner that respects the sovereignty, equality and territorial integrity of nations. No country can participate in an initiative that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.
For movie lovers in China, however, watching the Apu Trilogy and Sir would give them a taste of movies beyond the usual Bollywood fare.
It is possibly the first time in decades that Ray’s Apu Trilogy will be screened in China.
Beginning Saturday, the three movies will be shown at various theatres in Beijing in the run-up to the BIFF; all four shows for Pather Panchali or the Song of the Little Road are already sold out.