By Veda Nadendla:
As the wave of Oscar nominations arrives at our shore, it is India’s turn to reveal its talent to the world. This time around, Geetu Mohandas’ ‘Liar’s Dice’ will represent India at the Oscars 2015, in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
Liar’s Dice is set in a small Village, Chitkul, in Himachal Pradesh. The ruggedly beautiful and intriguing protagonist named Kamala is played by talented Geetanjali Thapa, who with her little girl and their pet goat sets out in search of her husband, who is unheard of since the past five months. Her husband, Harud, is a construction worker at a dangerous and possibly corrupt urban worksite. She was told repeatedly that he might not return because he may have started another family, but this tenacious young lady packed her bearings and travelled to Shimla and eventually Delhi in search of her better half. Enter, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, the craggy army deserter, reluctantly offering to help and protect the remarkable young woman and her companions with his own ulterior motives.
Actress Geetu Mohandas is the director and screen-writer of the movie; rising star Nawazuddin Siddiqui and the talented Geetanjali Thapa, its protagonists; and like an icing on the cupcake, a unique and untouched concept is the biggest take away from the film. Director Geetu Mohandas, in an interview with Amanda Lippert says the locations of the film are a big contributor and that they hold their own socio-political under-current for the narrative. “The movie was shot in order. It was like a backpack shooting, we were travelling and shooting and travelling again. It works well for the actors as well as the budget.” The film brings to light the situation of seasonal and unorganized labour in our country and the effect of their occupation on their lives.
Liar’s dice was picked from a list of 30 Indian Oscar aspirants, among which were Vikas Bahl’s Queen, Hansal Mehta’s Shahid and Bengali film Jaatishwar. In the past we have nominated Salaam Bombay (1988) and Lagaan (2001) and as the years go by the flavour of Indian cinema is taking a turn for the tastier. Across the vast universe of mainstream Hindi, Telugu and Tamil films, commercially released and receiving a wide public viewership, there is a wave of refreshingly realistic films brewing in the background.
Where once the year 2012 was known as the enemy of Independent films, we now stand at the frontier of avant-garde film-making which has given life to an invigorating and daring breed of film-makers seeking to tell a thought-provoking story. These directors have established a novel flavour of transparent cinema through the lens of their camera, a view which seeks not to sensationalize or decorate, but ironically, to show the world as it is. While most Indie film makers cite their influences as western films and satellite television, the core of their films remain whole-heartedly Indian. They seek introspection, intrigue and contemplation through their stories, without the attraction of a popular star, but with a confident theme.
These are small budget films made by contemporary film-makers who refuse to succumb to the popular and the typical; films which are worthy of giving competition to foreign films as opposed to our run-of-the-mill rosy Bollywood concoctions. Indian Film Festivals are an upcoming platform for independent films to thrive and expose the true potential of film makers in India, but it should not have to be that way. Almost 90% of independent films made in the country are unreleased for mainstream audiences and hardly see the light of day. It’s true that most audiences go to the theatres to escape from the travails of daily life, but there is a surreal charm in watching the reality on screen. A reality lived by Indians like us, living in a completely different world, a reality we often choose to ignore or turn a blind eye toward.
Liar’s Dice is the winner of two National Awards- Best Actress for Geetanjali Thapa and Best Cinematography. As we enter yet another Oscar race, will Liar’s Dice be India’s crowning glory next year? More importantly, will you watch any of the movies mentioned in the list above? Will you watch Liar’s Dice? A robust wave of reality cinema is knocking on your door, will you open?