There was a full house, all eager for the screening, perhaps remembering the great film that ended last year’s festival, Venus, which managed to tell a touching and funny tale of a transitioning woman who finds she is the father of a teenage son. The evening began, as is traditional, with the announcing of the winner of the Satyajit Ray Short Film Competition. “U Ushacha”, a tale of a young farm labourer who finds herself drawn to a local female primary school teacher, picked up the prize.
Next up, the audience award was announced and that went to Article 15 – the opening night film for LIFF this year. The movie uses the narrative of a crime thriller to explore the issues of inequality that still plague India, despite it being seventy years since the discrimination Article came into force. Having watched quite a few of the movies on offer this year, I would certainly agree with that result and would recommend anyone to catch it on the big screen while you can. It’s on worldwide release now. (read our review here and interview with Ayushmann Khurranna here)
The evening’s main event was Photograph, a movie directed by Ritesh Batra. Expectations were high, given that his debut movie, The Lunchbox won the Rail d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival 2013. Having then directed a couple of English-speaking movies, The Sense of an Ending and Our Souls at Night, Batra was back in the director’s chair with a script that he’d written himself. At the Q&A afterwards he said that the desire to write his own script was what brought him back to making an Indian language film.
The Lunchbox also provided Batra with his lead for “Photograph”, with Nawazuddin Siddiqui this time playing the romantic lead, Rafi who is a villager who’s come to the big city of Mumbai to earn money for his family as a street photographer. Opposite him is Sanya Malhotra as Miloni, a girl from a well-to-do city family who is studying to be a chartered accountant. (see our review here)
The audience burst into a round of applause afterwards and everyone stayed for the Q&A session which followed, in which Batra was accessible, open, and often humorous. A good example of this was his frank admission that he chose the name (and musical track) ‘Noorie’ from the classic Bollywood film purely because he liked the song, liked the name, and most importantly he could get the rights to the song. It was a convivial way to bring LIFF to a close in London and left us with the tantalising nugget that Batra is writing another script, set in East London.
Check out these pictures!
Pictures courtsey Darren Brade