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Indian Cinema at the Berlin Film Festival

Meenakshi Shedde

The Berlin Film Festival, along with Cannes and Venice, is one of the three most prestigious film festivals in the world. Indian cinema has a long relationship with the Berlin International Film Festival going back at least half a century. We had a rich harvest with a Golden Bear and Silver Bears during the '50s-'80s decades. Satyajit Ray won a Golden Bear for Ashani Sanket (Distant Thunder, 1973), Silver Bears for his Mahanagar (The Big City, 1964) and Charulata (The Lonely Wife, 1965), ) and a Special Recognition for Nayak (The Hero, 1966). Other Silver Bear winners include Tapan Sinha for Kabuliwala (1957), V. Shantaram for Do Ankhen Barah Haath (Two Eyes Twelve Hands, 1958), James Ivory's Shakespearewallah (1965) for best actress for Madhur Jaffrey, while Mrinal Sen earned one for Akaler Sandhane (In Search of Famine,1981).   Suddenly, 2008 became a turning point for India. About a dozen films and filmmakers were selected for Berlin in various competitive sections of the festival, they notched victories and consolidated their presence across sections. This led Berlin festival director Dieter Kosslick to comment, "I see Indians popping up everywhere at the Berlinale." Shah Rukh Khan wowed Berlin as Om Shanti Om played in the Berlinale Special, Siddharth Sinha won the Silver Bear for best short film for his assured FTII diploma film Udhed Bun (Un-ravel, in Bhojpuri). Ameer Sulthan's Paruthiveeran won a NETPAC Jury Special Mention. Indians also shone in the Berlinale Talent Campus, Talent Project Market, Shorts and Forum Expanded sections. Even the European Film Market (EFM) that runs concurrently in Berlin is seeing a growing number of Indian industry professionals as well.   In 2007, NRI Rajnesh Domalpalli won the Best First Feature Award at the Berlinale for his brilliant Vanaja (in Telugu). Other than these flashes--and Buddhadeb Dasgupta's Phera (The Return, 1988) and Charachar (The Shelter of Wings, 1994)--few Indian directors have even made it to the Competition section. It is mainly the International Forum of New Cinema, a parallel and independently curated part of the Berlin film festival that has regularly showcased a range of Indian cinema for over a decade--mainstream, arthouse in regional languages and documentaries. The other sections occasionally screening Indian films are the Panorama, Generation (for children and young adults) and Shorts sections.   At this year's Berlin film festival, that runs from February 5-15, 2009, India does not yet have a feature film selected by the Berlin film festival at the time of going to press. Although ...

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