Friday, June 17, 2016

Nagraj Manjule's 'Sairat'

As Large as Life 

This once obscure film, with a shoestring budget and young unknown actors has gone on tear hearts and is now the highest grossing Marathi film of all time.

by Rutwij Nakhwa

The nervous stares, the excitement, the butterflies, the rush of blood, never again feel as exciting as the very first time. And ‘Sairat’ takes you right back there. Bollywood has made hundreds of Romeo-Juliet-esque movies, from ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’ (1998) to ‘Ishaqzaade’ (2012); but never with the confidence and flair of ‘Sairat’. The fact that this once obscure film, with a shoestring budget and young unknown actors has gone on tear hearts and box office charts is telling. It is now the highest grossing Marathi film of all time. 

In a small village in interior Maharashtra Parshya, a low caste fisherman’s boy falls in love with his college classmate Archie, the daughter of a powerful local politician. Archie is rich, upper caste but also armed with a resolute self-confidence and sense of humanity. It is she who takes strong steps to initiate and protect their relationship. Director Nagraj Manjule shrewdly draws heavily on the nostalgia of cheesy Bollywood romances, complete with hair-flips and ample slo-mo, which the characters, like majority of Indian audiences have internalised. But he doesn’t get carried away as we are left spell bound by the stunning visuals, replete with wonderful romantic landscape shots, the rich sound design, some good performances and up-tempo editing that ensures that the close to three hour film doesn’t weigh you down. It is a worthy follow up to Manjule’s acclaimed debut ‘Fandry’ (2013).

But haven’t we seen this film many times before? As expected things go wrong and the couple flees. As lights come on suddenly at the interval after almost two hours, doubts about the film creep into our minds; we ask “What now?”, ‘Sairat’ comes back with a masterstroke. Gone is the campy romantic style. As the narrative gets darker, so does Manjule’s filmmaking; now a lot more bleak and realistic. Just like the couple, we are hit hard in the face with reality. As they realise that living by themselves and staying in love is a lot more difficult that falling in it; even suggestions of horrors that could befall them are too much for our deeply invested hearts to handle. 

The film gives you so much that giving three hours of your time seems fair. In its unapologetic confidence it does not shy away from making obvious commentary on the caste and economic divide between the lovers’ families. Something that you don’t get however, is an ending that you can easily digest. Like the rest of the film, it ensures that it rips your heart and  grips your mind till much after you have left the cinema hall. It is a perfect balance style and substance, of romanticism with realism and of an age old story with a very real setting. 

                           Rutwij Nakhwa, studying for his Bachelors in Mass Media at St Xaviers College, Mumbai, is working as an intern with Uma da Cunha and her quarterly magazine 'Film India Worldwide'


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Call For Entries

For over 51 years, the Chicago International Film Festival has been committed to discovering some of the most exciting films the world has to offer. In 2015, we presented over 200 films from 60 different countries. For our 52nd year, we want to discover something new, and that all starts with you!
Don't miss the regular deadline! 
Submit by Friday, June 17 in the following competitions and categories:

International Feature Film Competition
New Directors Competition (feature films)
Documentary Competition
Short Film Competition
Out-Look Competition
Black Perspectives
World Cinema
After Dark
City & State
Click here for more information and submit your film today!
Festival dates: October 13-27, 2016
Regular deadline: June 17, 2016
Late Deadline: July 8, 2016
30 E. Adams St. Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60603
P: 312.683.0121 | F: 312.683.0122 | E:
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Click here for sponsorship opportunities.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Short Takes 6 contest - Winners

Congratulations to Short Takes 6 contest winners

Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest


Los Angeles, CA - USA
Winners Announced: Fall 2016

Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contestan annual, international feature and television screenwriting contest designed to launch the careers of aspiring writers. Big Break rewards screenwriters with over $80,000 USD in cash and prizes, including a trip to Los Angeles for a series of A-list executive meetings. Winners and finalists alike have had their screenplays optioned and produced and have secured high-profile representation as well as lucrative writing deals.

Big Break awards 11 finalists in film and television including two Grand Prize Winners that will receive a roundtrip flight to Los Angeles plus hotel accommodations in addition to cash prizes ranging from $2,500 (Television) to $15,000 (Feature). Feature screenplays can be entered in one of seven genre categories including Action, Comedy, Drama, Family, Period, Sci-Fi, and Horror. TV scripts are submitted to one of four categories in half-hour and hour formats for specs and pilots.

In recent years, over 50 Big Break semi-finalists, finalists, and winners have been signed to professional representation and many have successfully sold and produced their scripts. In 2015 Feature Film Grand Prize winners G.W. Freund & Daniel Bonjour signed with Brillstein Entertainment Partners and TV Grand Prize winner Eric Buchman signed with Magnet Management and went on immediately to become a staff writer on NBC's Blindspot.

Submit Now

June 30, 2016 - Regular Deadline

View submission details

Big Break makes every effort to help fast track the careers of winning writers by arranging multiple events to help connect with industry professionals. These events include a breakfast with screenwriter and producer Pen Densham (Riding the AlligatorMoll Flanders,Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, producer of Backdraft), lunch with Big Break judges and other industry professionals, dinner with working screenwriters and producers, and a meeting prep session from screenwriting career coach Lee Jessup.

Submit to the Big Break Screenwriting Contest directly through Final Draft before the final deadline on July 15, 2016. Enter your script today!

The World Almost Ended, Again

The current wave of superhero films fail to excite; the magic once created by breathing life into comic book characters has gone missing.

-Rutwij Nakhwa

Four years ago I left Mumbai to attend college in another state, with a deep regret for not being here to watch 'The Dark Knight Rises', the epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. For more than two years, I had waited in anticipation to watch the film on an IMAX screen, it being shot in the format. Such was the extent of my fandom; a legacy of the generation that had western (especially American) pop culture injected into our veins right from childhood. For the generation before us, pop culture was just an odd import. They looked at Starbucks with earnest distaste, we learnt to love it even before it had arrived. We grew up glued to comic books and to the TV where they appeared in animated cartoons.

Even so, I travelled for about four hours to the nearest city with a multiplex to catch the film on its releasing weekend. I also watched it a handful more times since, and about twice in the IMAX after coming home for mid-term breaks.

About four years and a multitude of films later, the way I feel about ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’, the latest offshoot of the monstrous Hollywood superhero genre, is radically contrasting. As much as I hate to admit it, a general sense of fatigue and boredom has settled in amongst my fellow comrades and I. At the cinema hall, see it in each others faces and feel it in our beings, as we sit collectively to devour the next super-hero marvel. 

These films do not excite as much as they did, the magic once created by breathing life into comic book characters has gone missing. Dark shadows of doubt loom over what is being called the Golden Age of this film genre. As the scale of the so called "Cinematic Universes" and the number of characters explodes, there is a marked decline in the quality of their overall storytelling. 

Things went into overdrive with the 2012 Avengers film, wherein for the first time, fans all over the world could see the most iconic comic book characters (which they had been watching in individual films for the past four years), unite to take on a threat so mighty that it could end our world. Since then most films have either featured a super-hero team-up or a world ending catastrophe. 

Marvel Studios’ ‘The Avengers’ and DC’s ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ pioneered these grand elements; but they were always delicately interlaced with character development and good storytelling, thereby keeping these very large ships from sinking. Something their successors are finding increasingly difficult to replicate. What we are thus bombarded with are a series of half baked, mechanically planned films that attract audiences and will do so for the numerous sequels that will ensue, but leave the viewer a little bit less enchanted each successive time. 

Looking back, 2013’s ‘Man of Steel’, has a controversially dark, brooding Superman who saves the world from a destructive attack. The next year brought ‘Captain America: Winter Solider', a very good film at the time, but now seems to be one of the early steps into this turmoil. In 2014 came ‘X-Men: Days Of The Future Past’ followed the year after by the second Avengers film and a Fantastic Four reboot that nobody liked; all of which feature the same end-of-the-world blueprint and a team-up of the earth’s mightiest — of which every studio, every franchise has it own version. 

The year 2016 has only added to the repetitive dimension of multiple characters/heroes assembling, apocalyptic threats, and to the obsessive “Universe Building” (setting up sequels in the current film). Something that left ‘Captain America: Civil War’ feeling segmented and less than the sum of its parts. But Civil War and DC’s ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’, which critics hated, are refreshing as we see Superheroes going up in battle against each other instead. More enjoyable still is the enormously successful ‘Deadpool’ which blatantly ignores all the genre conventions and even breaks the fourth wall. 

Just as I was beginning to see a silver lining, came the apocalyptic X-Men film embodying the worst of my collective fears. I felt the fatigue deep in my bones as I watched yet another  group of mutant super-heroes unite and save the world for the umpteenth time.  This time, not even the villain seemed to have the conviction to actually destroy it. And this is not the end; there are more grand films coming our way in the two Justice League and Avengers films announced, which have many of these problematic elements built into them by default. It will take no less than a miracle to do right by these films, storylines of which are very iconic to the comic lore. 

Not all hope is lost though, as films like David Ayer’s ‘Suicide Squad’, a super-villain team up and Marvel’s ‘Doctor Strange’ directed by Scott Derrickson, which might just be a horror film, promise something different and hopefully, exciting again.