Padma Jayraj, Screen India, Friday, March 10, 2006
Vibgyor, a film festival of short films and documentaries, from February 22-25, 2006, initiated by Chethana, Nottam and Abbhivyaki, is the third annual event in Thrissur, Kerala. Inaugurated by Lasse Naukkarinen, the Finnish director, Vibgyor tried at negotiating identities and diversity, recognising and legitimising the distinctive space and content of each.
The films carried the zeal and political energies of the people and their movements to assert heterogeneity of identities. The festival celebrated off-laid identities and pointed to a different road that leads you home.
The Competitive section selected – Thankam (Pramod Payyannur) that showed the companionship of a lone woman and deformed beggar and Pee (Audan), campaigning material that showed Dalit women scavenging for awards. Non-competitive section explored the polemics of differences in a wide world. Focus of the year was water. The National Seminar on ‘Identities and Diversity’ followed screening of more than 100 short and documentary films, music videos, animation films and spots and retrospectives. Open-forums were spirited interactions.
Vibgyor had seven packages – Ethnic culture, Dalit identity, Gender and Sexuality, Fundamentalism versus Diversity, Nation, Globalisation, and North-east.
Artist’s Life, the inaugural film, directed by Lasse Naukkarinen set the tone of the Festival highlighting the artist’s encounter with his surroundings. The child, a creative artist endowed with a sense and sensibility is guided by his own intuitive notions, working hard according to his own theories.
Identity, KP Jayashankar and Anjali Monteiro, a critique on constructing identity, introduced the main theme. Using nursery rhymes, poems, popular TV commercials, the writings of riot-affected children, the Video examines our praxis of identity as a site of resistance and change.
Water, a package of thirty films from India and abroad, showcased ‘the ongoing struggles around the world over water, struggles that call for a balanced equation between environment, society and development,’ according to Dr Muralidharan of St Aloysios College, one of the organisers.
Interiors Of The River (Manilal) documents the struggle by the people along a river against the officials of Eletricty Board in Kerala. Citing reports from world over, the film is a wake-up call to conserve and rejuvenate our rivers and natural resources.
Many films foregrounded discourses from the margins. Dalit identity got fiercely projected. Chandri, (Kirtana Kumar) is a slice of Lambani-life bordering on the mainstream society in Karnataka. Women frames with the problem of identity – personal, misplaced, ethnic were viewed.
Thruthu (Siby Jose) reveals the problems of gender and sexuality. It explores the structures of romantic autonomy, desire and the different shades of patriarchy that inhabit a Christian (lower) middle class milieu in rural Kerala.
She Write (Anjali Monteiro ) traverses the mindscapes of four modern Tamil women poets, their sense of freedom and their need to alter the discourse on normality.
Vasudha Joshi’s Girl Song shows fundamentalism versus diversity. The film looks at the life of Anjum Katyal, a Kolkata blue singer. Drawing on her poems and songs, we see how a proud cultural identity woven from many strands is under threat from narrow exclusionist definitions of identity. Many films show what it means to be a Muslim in India today.
Paher Chujaeri, (Pankaj Rishikumar) set against the mindless war between Pakistan and India, questions the concept of nationhood. The film documents the journeys of the Bhands, folk exponents of the satirical theatre form, struggling to survive in their war-stricken province.
Ordinary Lives (Sheetal S Agarwal) looks at migration in these times of Globalisation. The film focuses on a young, urban Indian woman living with her family in Mumbai slum. Against the milieu of migrants from villages to city, her struggle is a parallel to the city’s struggle to modernise itself.
The still unknown North-east came under scrutiny. Naga Story (Gopala Menon), Manipur In The Shadow of ASFPA (Anu and Iqbal Malhotra) distills the frustration and the fight of a region. Others showed vibrant tribal lives caught in transitional pangs.
Short Fiction: Padushyude Meenukal (Jagesh) is an endearing tale of the affection between a boy and his grandfather. Against the rich green-and blue of Kerala, the film tells of loneliness, consumerism, and the travails of those who struggle in the oil-rich Middle East.
Documentaries on the struggles of Adivasies in Orissa, fisher-folk in Gujarat, and the poor in Chatisgarh against displacement, while suggesting alternatives of small projects to provide irrigation and electricity, were instructive. The concern of K.R.Narayanan, our former president, “Let it not be said of India that this great Republic in its hurry for development is uprooting its people from their land,” echoed all along.
Message: The films and discussions thrashed the problem of identities and diversity. “We carry multiple layers of identities in our fluid terrain of relationships. Identity politics is trying to make identity monolithic,” said KP Jayasankar from Tata School of Social Sciences. At another level, identity is used as a tool for empowerment when marginalised. Identities should co-exist, and should be channelised to build a better world. ‘Violent resistance is fraught with pain. Cleanse your soul of toxic energies. Only nonviolence rings in peace,’(Amar Kanwar, Indian Retro.)
Confronting reality with reality, against the odds of mediocrity and the mainstream, the festival celebrated a wide variety of cinematographic visions and vistas, defending diversity, revealing the beauty, versatility and grandeur of short-and documentary film as a full-fledged art form.