After 2011’s “Nobel Thief,” 2012’s “Uncle Shyamal Turns off the Lights,” 2015’s “Peace Haven” and 2016’s “Mi Amor,” Indian filmmaker Suman Ghosh returns to the Busan International Film Festival with a brace of projects.
His “Aadhaar,” a satire on India’s contentious identity card of the same name, has its world premiere at the ‘A Window On Asian Cinema’ strand, while “The Waste Collector” is participating in the Asian Project Market. “Aadhaar” too began life as an APM project in 2016.
“As a country, India is at a very interesting juncture currently,” says Ghosh. “The ambiguities, the contradictions and the dilemmas of the ‘idea of India’ is what I find fascinating. India’s aspirations are to join the elite nations while there is a large part of India which is still in extreme deprivation. The aspiring ‘digital India’ exists concomitantly with a ‘superstitious India’. Though I hate to characterize the country in such binaries but roughly that is how I see the country. This lends to cinematic exploration and with that urgency I thought of making a film on the ‘Aadhaar’ project. The card is just a motif around which the story revolves- but it is more a portrait of current India with all its contradictions.”
The spark came from a 2011 article in the New Yorker that detailed how a labourer could not be fingerprinted for the Aadhaar card as years of manual work had eroded his prints. Ghosh decided to spin a story around this incident. “Aadhaar” is Ghosh’s first film in the Hindi language with all his previous films being largely in Bengali.
The film is produced by independent outfit Drishyam Films and billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Jio Studios. Jio will roll out the film in India theatrically on Dec. 6, with an OTT release to follow.
Ghosh’s APM project “The Waste Collector” is the story of a strange relationship which develops between a waste collector and his affluent clients through the garbage that he collects from their homes, and the film is likely to be dialogue free.
Speaking about the challenges and opportunities for distribution of Indian independent films today, Ghosh says, “Throughout my career I have made films which are of two types. One, are the films like ‘Nobel Chor,’ ‘Kadambari,’ and ‘Basu Paribaar’ which are mass appeal films. They have big stars in, which makes it easier for distribution. On the other hand, I have also made films like ‘Shyamal Uncle Turns off the Lights,’ ‘Peace Haven’ and now ‘The Waste Collector,’ which are more esoteric and experimental.
“I could not release ‘Shyamal Uncle in Bengal’ even in a theatre like Nandan which was apparently made for such films. The fact that it was made with non-actors made them pass the film. Luckily in the last 3-4 years the films find an outlet via the online platforms. ‘Shyamal Uncle’ was picked up by Amazon Prime and ‘Peace Haven’ by Netflix given that both these films were huge festival hits. That gives one encouragement to pursue such offbeat projects. With ‘Aadhaar’ it was much easier given the studio involvement.”