A brave new cinema

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SummaryExhibiting a fresh spirit of storytelling, Indian filmmakers make a mark at this year’s Toronto film festival

Mumbai’s dabbawallahs, and Shilpa Ranade’s The World of Goopi and Bagha, an animated feature film based on characters immortalised by the 1969 Satyajit Ray classic Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne. Shambhavi Kaul, the daughter of legendary filmmaker Mani Kaul, completes the list of world premieres from India with her short film Mount Song, part of the Wavelengths section of the festival. Also part of the Indian selection is Maneesh Sharma’s A Random Desi Romance in the gala section.

While new independent filmmakers in India embrace fresh ideas and narrative styles, like Anand Gandhi’s philosophical journey, The Ship of Theseus, which world-premiered in Toronto last year, their movies are also personal and more intimate. If Qissa is Singh’s resentment of his grandfather’s violent ways, Faith Connections, a feature-length documentary, which is part of the Toronto world premieres from India, is its director’s reverence for his father.

“My father asked me to fetch him a bottle of Ganga water,” says Pan Nalin, who shot the film during the Kumbh Mela this year. “I went there and got him some stories too,” he jokes about the film, which is the story of seven characters linked only by their power of devotion. Nalin, whose last documentary, Samsara, too, was about faith and devotion, encountered his characters, such as a yogi bringing up a two-year-old child found abandoned as a newborn, while negotiating his way through a sea of people at the Kumbh Mela. “Everybody must have seen something at the Kumbh Mela,” says Nalin. “My film is about what I saw.”

Ranade, who teaches at the industrial design centre of the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, saw an animated film in a book she was illustrating for Scholastic. “I was illustrating Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, the first in a series of three books in Hindi by Gulzar, titled Potli Baba Ki, and instantly knew it would make an animated film,” says Ranade, who spoke with Ray’s son Sandip Ray about her plan to make an animated movie based on the original story by Ray’s grandfather Upendra Kishor Ray Chaudhuri.

“He said it’s fine and we started to make the film,” says Ranade, who found a producer in the Children’s Film Society, India. Using theatre activists for music, the strong point of the film, she made the low-budget movie about Goopy, the singer, and Bagha, the drummer, in two-and-a-half years. After the Toronto festival, the 78-minute film, titled

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