Ridley Scott, Anurag Kashyap, Richie Mehta and Google invited the people of India to share their stories about life in an evolving India - from the ordinary to the extraordinary; personal to profound. The result: India's first fully crowd sourced feature film. INDIA IN A DAY is a story about the lives, loves, hopes, dreams, aspirations and worries of people in a country that is in the throes of dramatic technological, economic, political and sociological change. A lyrical portrait of a country, it gives a heartfelt image of the people across a vast nation with their joys and troubles. (Saturday, 21/10; Sunday, 22:10)
ASK THE SEXPERT is another contemporary documentary about the highly popular 93-year-old sex advice columnist, Dr. Watsa, who writes for a daily newspaper in Mumbai. Despite sex being a taboo topic in that country, the column's brand of non-moralistic advice and humour has emboldened many to write in with their questions, the vast majority of whom seek basic information. Director Vaishali Sinha brilliantly captures Dr. Watsa's treasured personality with compassion and humour, promoting the importance of sexual pleasure, consent and information as a passage to gender equality and health. (Tuesday, 24/10; Thursday, 26/10)
The Cannes prize-winning THE CINEMA TRAVELLERS is a journey with the traveling cinemas of India, which bring the wonder of the movies to faraway villages annually. Seven decades on, as their lorries and cinema projectors crumble and film reels become scarce, their audiences are lured by slick digital technology. Filmed over five years, THE CINEMA TRAVELLERS accompanies a shrewd exhibitor, a benevolent showman and a maverick projector mechanic who bear a beautiful burden: to keep the last traveling cinemas of the world running. “An intimate, poignant documentary, recalling Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1988 Oscar winner “Cinema Paradiso” in its effusive love of 20th-century celluloid splendor.” Nick Schager, Variety (Monday, 23/10; Thursday, 26/10).
SHIRAZ: A ROMANCE OF INDIA (with live music by John Sweeney), which comes to Cambridge straight from its Archive Gala presentation at the BFI London Film Festival. Based on the 17th-century love story that inspired the building of the Taj Mahal, this pioneering silent was directed by a German but filmed entirely in India with an all-Indian cast. Himansu Rai stars as Shiraz, a humble potter’s son who is deeply enamoured of his beautiful foster-sister. When she is kidnapped and sold in slavery to a Mughal prince, he rushes to her rescue … with its spellbinding images and touching performances, this spectacular romance still enchants us today. (Sunday, 22/10)
Screening in a rare 35mm print is Ritwik Ghatak’s THE CLOUD-CAPPED STAR. Set in Calcutta, his most famous film centres on a sensitive young woman who sacrifices herself to support her struggling family, refugees from East Bengal following the Partition of India. By contrast, her elder brother, a would-be singer, puts personal ambition before family duty.
Ritwik Ghatak (1925 - 1976), the maverick Bengali director, has been described by critic Jonathan Rosenbaum as ‘one of the most neglected major filmmakers in the world’. With striking imagery counterpointed by a richly imaginative soundtrack, Ghatak’s masterpiece is an undisputed classic of world cinema. Its searing depiction of the refugees’ plight is now more relevant than ever.
Satyajit Ray’s CHARULATA, set in late 19th-century Bengal, was adapted from the novella by Rabindranath Tagore and boasts an unforgettable heroine: Charulata - beautiful, intellectual and brimming with vitality. Neglected by her politics-obsessed husband, she feels lonely and trapped in their vast, ornate mansion, but things change when her husband’s charming younger cousin, an aspiring poet, comes to stay. He encourages her literary talent and she soon discovers a soul mate and maybe something more. With ravishing cinematography by Subrata Mitra and a wistful score by Satyajit Ray himself, this was the great director’s favourite of all his films.