45th Regus London Film Festival
by Elizabeth Menon

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Audience figures this year were quite impressive at around 110,000, feasting on more than 200 films. Regus sponsored the Film Festival and the World cinema was sponsored by Sky movies. There were three Malayalam films among the seven films from India, a reminder that the quality of films from Kerala extends beyond the rest. Jayaraj’s ‘Shantham’, M T Vasudevan Nair’s ‘Oru cheru punchiri’ and Subramanyan Shantakumar’s ‘Munkolangal’ were the chosen ones this year. Munkolangal was nominated for The Sutherland Trophy. Unfortunately the print of Oru cheru punchiri was damaged in transit and therefore the show was cancelled.

Kerala’s most talented director, Jayaraj returns to the festival for the second time with his intense film about two friends and their families. Yesudas’s trail-blazing voice hits the airwaves and then, rolled in the titles of ‘Calmness’. The film brings home the devastating effect of politics and rivalry destroying families and the peaceful harmony in a village, in north Kerala. Jayaraj uses his excellent directorial skills in this film to bring out the best in KPAC Lalitha and Seema Biswas. Lalitha shows her range of acting through happiness, anger, bitterness, extreme sadness and the art of forgiving, to such an extent that it’s no surprise that she won the award for this film. Though Seema Biswas brought ‘Karthyani’ to life in this film, one just wonders why an actress from Kerala was not given the honour to do this character! The alluring beauty of Kerala captivated the audience and the credit goes to the photographer. Jayaraj uses his skill to show the world how violence, political rivalry and the growing trend of blindly obeying the ruthless leaders can be devastating; and he wastes no time in showing the importance of priests and temples and their great influence in our society.

The tranquil voice of Yesudas took the audience to a new world. The power of Kaithapram’s music showed the depth of the film, especially the songs rendered by Yesudas, ‘Shanta gambhira, Amma yesoda and Pandava mathave’. There is no doubt that the powerful combination of Jayaraj, Yesudas and Kaithapram, takes this film to celestial heights. However, the symbolic show of ‘power of women and mothers’,could have been avoided, as a director of Jayaraj’s calibre could have achieved the effect without ‘the circle of women and the kerosene lamps’.

Subramanyam’s ‘Munkolangal’ captures the lives of potter community and their sorrows. Manikantan and Beena Antony of ‘Desadanam’ fame are the main characters in this film. Some of the old village customs unfold beautifully and one could feel the closeness of the community, their simple needs and expectations. This slow moving film manages to keep the audience attentive till the end by its excellent script and attention to detail. The controversial character of Alagiri changes from the eternal macho bachelor to the caring and almost lovable village hero and he even finds time to fight racism and exploitation by the unscrupulous.
The Sutherland Trophy was awarded to ‘The Warrior’, which was filmed in India, directed by Asif Kapidia. Sathyajit Ray Award went to Todd Field’s ‘In the Bedroom’ and ‘Bolivia’ took FIPROSCI award.

© E Menon



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