Chatterjee’s credits include “Brick Lane” (2007), for which she scored a best actress nomination at the British Independent Film Awards, “Parched” (2015) and “Lion” (2016). She won the Asia Star Award for best Asian filmmaker at Busan for her directorial debut, “Roam Rome Mein” (2019).
Rauniyar’s latest work, short film “Four Nights,” is playing at Berlinale Shorts. The filmmaker’s first feature, “Highway,” premiered at the 2012 Berlinale and played Locarno, while his sophomore feature “White Sun” (2016) won awards at the Venice, Palm Springs, Fribourg and Singapore festivals. He is also a Berlinale Talents alumnus.
Written by Rauniyar, David Barker and Asha Magrati, “The Sky Is Mine” examines the caste system endemic to South Asia, where there is great emphasis on skin color. The film will follow Pooja, a light-skinned Nepali police officer, who has broken centuries-old misogyny by becoming the first female detective in the country. She comes across her first case in a violent border town. While tens of thousands are in the streets protesting systemic discrimination against the dark-skinned Madhesi, two light-skinned boys have been kidnapped with an impossible ransom demand. Pooja has only 48 hours to save the boys and very few clues. A tough, no-nonsense cop, she is forced to seek help from Mamata, an outspoken, feminine, dark-skinned Madhesi policewoman who seems to sympathize with the protests. With dozens of civilians and police officers already killed, failure to find the boys could spark a revolution.
Matthieu Toponier (“Sunset”) serves as consulting writer and will also edit the film.
Chatterjee will play Mamata, while “White Sun” star Magrati, who is Rauniyar’s wife and frequent collaborator, plays Pooja. Pic also has cast Nepali cinema superstar Dayahang Rai. “Script is always the reason why I want to do a film. I love the character offered to me as well,” Chatterjee told Variety. “Though I have never met Deepak in person, we hit it off really well in our zoom chat last year when he first told me about the film. I love working across cultures. I think South Asian film makers should collaborate more. This gives me an opportunity to do so.”
Rauniyar told Variety: “The film’s lead character and story are inspired by my marriage with Asha, who is of a light-skinned Pahadi ethnic group but lower caste among them, and I come from southern plains bordering India, a dark-skinned Madhesi ethnic group. We were looking for someone not only a good actor but sensitive as a person who understands the complexity of theme and character to play the dark-skinned policewoman.”
“I have followed Tannishtha’s career for over 10 years now. I admire her work. We have many friends in common,” Rauniyar adds. “In the first meeting, it became clear that Tannishtha is the Mamata I was looking for. We connected very well. I’m glad she felt the same way. I’m very excited to be collaborating with her.”
“The Sky Is Mine,” due to start shooting in May, is produced by Rauniyar and Magrati for Aadi Films (Nepal/U.S.), Jeremy Chua for Potocol (Singapore), Alan R. Milligan for Tannhauser Gate (Norway), Carole Scotta for Haut et Court (France) and Prajjwal S.J.B. Rana for Eyecore Films (Nepal).
Meanwhile, Rauniyar’s Berlinale Shorts selection “Four Nights” follows filmmaker Ram (Rai) and actor Maya (Magrati) who have moved thousands of miles from their home in Nepal in the hope of realizing their dreams in New York City. As Ram works to finish his feature film, Maya receives a job offer that puts a strain on their relationship.
“Eighteen years ago, Asha and I met on a film set. The shared love for cinema and art brought us together, but the same passion at a point threatened to separate us,” says Rauniyar. “We filmmakers don’t often talk about the darkness behind the shadows of the glamor of the red carpet, festivals, and awards. ‘Four Nights’ is an attempt to turn that camera and face us, the filmmakers. Though most of our works had been in Nepal, for the past 11 years, we have primarily lived in the U.S. I’m fascinated by New York as a city and the complexity of living here, and I wanted to explore it.”