Culture-and-entertainment

5 Regional Films Introducing the Cultural Visages of India

As the World Heritage Week gets rolling, we bring you a list of feature films from vernacular India that have the audiences, critics and the industry trade in a tizzy this year. Covering disparate, but evocative stories, these films have received much critical acclaim across various international film festivals, as they articulate universal ideas that transcend human values, lives, cultures, and spaces. Here’s why they are important in understanding life here in India.

BULBUL CAN SING

Director: Rima Das

Language: Assamese

IMDB Rating: 7.5/10

Award-winning director Rima Das’s latest project titled Bulbul Can Sing tells you a coming-of-age tale of three Indian teenagers in rural Assam. Capturing the life in the rural hinterlands, and filtered by realism and simplicity, the film stages a story the search of three schoolgoers in search of their identities within the context of the Indian countryside. This fiction film made its Indian Premiere with the Mumbai International Film Festival in 2018 and won the Golden Gateway award for the best film in the India Gold category. Watch as the self-identity of a young teenager clashes with the traditional cultural identity of society in this compelling story.

BALEKEMPA

Director: Ere Gowda

Language: Kannada

IMDB Rating: 7.1/10

This Kannada-drama film packs a punch telling a story of a travelling bangle seller and his wife who cannot conceive a child. This premise gets the villagers gossiping. The story unfolds an insight into the close-knit patriarchal community of Karnataka where hidden desires and relationships still find a way to exist. The director who had previously scripted Tithi, which had won multiple awards, has once again found international patronage at the International Film Festival at Rotterdam (won the FIPRESCI Prize) with his very first project. The story juxtaposes relationships in the context of closed societies and although local in its setting, still espouses universal themes.

JONAKI

Director: Aditya Vikram Sengupta

Language: Bengali

IMDB Rating: 7.4/10

The word Jonaki defines an Era, which was largely considered the Age of Romanticism in Assamese Literature. It also means firefly in Bengali. The story of Jonaki, takes you on a romantic ride through love, longing and loneliness in the backdrop of deep emotions. The story delves into the life of  Jonaki, an 80-year-old woman, who searches for love in a strange world of decaying memories, her lover, now old and grey, returns to a world she now leaves behind. Jonaki was featured at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, New Horizons International Film Festival and Indian Film Festival of Melbourne.

LIGHT IN THE ROOM (OTTAMURI VELICHAM)

Director: Rahul Riji Nair

Language: Malayalam

IMDB Rating: 7.6/10

Set against the backdrop of a hilltop village surrounded by dense forest and a decaying tea plantation in Kerala is the story of Sudha, an underprivileged woman who reaches this village after her marriage with Chandran. A story of deeply held prejudices and life, this emotional thriller, explores the subject of female emancipation in a telling format. The film won the Best Feature Film award at the Indian Film Festival at Stuttgart and was featured at the Chicago South Asian Film Festival.

MEHSAMPUR

Director: Kabir Chowdhry

Language: Punjabi/ Hindi

IMDB Rating: 6.8/10

Amar Singh Chamkila was regarded as Punjab’s best stage performers. With his wife Amarjot, he would take to the stage and would often sing about the prevalent Punjabi culture that touched upon subjects as societal as drinking, coming of age, extra-marital relationships, and the drug culture. He was widely followed as well as held in contempt as his art would fly in the face of the status quo. The story of Mehsampur follows a filmmaker by the name of Devrath on a mission to make a film about the lives and assassination of the controversial and legendary singers Chamkila and Amarjot. This provocative and sexually explicit film blurs the line between fiction and reality.

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