Be it a Chakma girl's failed love story in Satarupa Sanyal's 'Tanyabi Lake' or the complex tale of relationships in Ahsan Majid's Monpa language movie 'Sonam', rare language films, quite unassumingly, are touching the right chords at the 23rd Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF).
Spoken by tiny minorities, these films give glimpses of traditions and cultures that not many are aware of, said the chairperson of KIFF seminar committee, Ratnottama Sengupta.
"Rare language films were first introduced in KIFF schedule in 2015. These little-known languages, if not promoted, would go extinct over a period of time and with that the poetries, songs and films made in these dialects would also fade into oblivion," Sengupta said.
This year, eight movies in as many languages or dialects - Monpa, Konkani, Kodava, Bodo, Dogri, Maithili, Khasi and Chakma - have found screen space at the 'Unheard India: Rare Indian Languages' section of the fest, much to the delight of film buffs.
"I am glad that some rare films that we don't usually come across in movie libraries or the Internet were screened at KIFF. These rare language films talk about societies that we are completely unaware of," said Debmit Dutta, a delegate at the KIFF and a telecom MNC employee.
Director Satarupa Sanyal, who dealt with the culture and traditions of Chakma community in her film Tanyabi Lake, said her film showcases a unique Konyapon or a dowry system, where the groom pays money to the bride's family.
"Chakmas still hold on to their traditions. Tanyabi Lake is a story of love, loss and hope where a rivulet dries up and changes its course. I conceived the idea while doing my research work on the community," she explained.
The seminar committee chief asserted that the city has always given art its due importance, no matter what its origin.
"These films usually talk about traditions, culture and problems relevant in their community, something that most of us are unaware of. KIFF gave me an opportunity to curate the 'Unheard India' section and bring to mainstream some of the fine works in rare languages," Sengupta told PTI.
Echoing similar sentiments, director K Ramesh Samath said he was thrilled to see a packed hall at the screening of his Konkani film Ai. Vai. Jaa. Saa. The film follows the journey of four children with diverse backgrounds.
"My work has been liked and appreciated in Delhi as well as Atlanta film fests but Kolkata is the only place where I witnessed a packed hall for a rare language film. So far, only five films have been made in Konkani language, spoken by a tiny population in Karnataka and Maharashtra. Aai. Vai. Jaa. Saa. is the first children's film in Konkani language," he said.
Manju Borah's 'Songs of the Horned Owl', based on a myth in the Bodo community and Rahul Sharma's 'Pebbles' which gives an insight into the lifestyle of small street gangsters, also drew huge appreciation at the fest.
Yadab Mondal, director (films), KIFF, told PTI that KIFF wants to give these rare language films a platform, where a Maithili film is applauded alongside a mainstream French classic.
"There should be no language barrier when it comes to art. The Unheard India section has been specially curated to promote these unknown and unheard gems. The efforts that go into making these films should be recognised," Mandal added.
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