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35 Things You Might Not Know About Our Not Just Bollywood Films

This September sees the debut of Not Just Bollywood, a brand new film season showcasing the often-undersung world of India’s independent movie scene. Curated by the University of Manchester’s Omar Ahmed, the 16-day event aims to take you on a whirlwind tour of the country’s most exciting filmmaking voices as well as giving you an opportunity to get involved with a handful of post-film discussions and Q&As. As for the films on show, there’s a broad selection ranging from heartwarming comedies to insightful documentaries. Here, curator Ahmed shares some trivia about his film picks…

The Lunchbox

Irrfan Khan stars in this heartwarming comedy that has already become a classic in modern Indian filmmaking but did you know…

  • The Lunchbox is one the most watched Indian films of all time in British & European cinemas.
  • It was originally going to be a documentary about the dabbawallas who deliver lunch to the workers of Mumbai everyday.
  • The film has won over 29 international awards.
  • Despite its success, it was not selected for India’s official Oscar entry in 2013, leading to controversy. Had it been selected it probably would have won.
  • Irrfan Khan is one of Indian cinema’s few stars with an international profile and has appeared in two major Oscar winning films, Life of Pi and Slumdog Millionaire.
  • Nearly 80 million dabbas are delivered each year to offices.

Ankhon Dekhi

Actor, writer and director Rajat Kapoor puts his many talents to use in Ankhon Dekhi, a philosophical comedy about family and self identity. It’s already considered a key work of Indian cinema but did you know…

  • Rajat Kapoor trained at the prestigious NFTIA was taught by two of Indian Parallel Cinema’s most influential filmmakers – Mani Kaul and Kumar Shahani.
  • Manish Mundra, a new independent producer, who first heard about the project on social media, financed the film; at the time Rajat Kapoor was having difficulty raising the money.
  • Rajat Kapoor is also an acclaimed theatre actor. Over the years he’s adapted and directed Shakespeare’s plays for the stage, using clowns and the circus as an unusual mode of address.
  • Star Sanjay Mishra first started acting in the early 1990s and recent films like Ankhon Dekhi and Masaan have proved a versatility that goes beyond the comic roles he has often been associated with.
  • The film was shot on location in Old Delhi, India.
  • Varun Grover, renowned lyricist and scriptwriter, is another key creative artist in the rise of Indian independent cinema.
  • Music director Sagar Desai has been a regular collaborator with Rajat Kapoor, having scored the music for many of Rajat’s films including Mixed Doubles (2006) and Mithya (2008).

The Cinema Travellers

Critically acclaimed documentary The Cinema Travellers details India’s long history with cinema tents and their prickly relationship with advances in technology.

  • The travelling tent cinema is a dying cinematic experience and has predominantly been a way of letting rural India watch films.
  • Historians say the trend of travelling cinemas goes as far back as the 1940s.
  • Directors Shirley Abraham and Amit Maheshiya have being researching the travelling cinema culture since 2008.
  • The documentary was first pitched at the 2013 Sheffield Doc Fest.
  • The Cinema Travellers captures the shift from celluloid to digital and the associated technological anxieties.

Newton

Amit Marsurka’s Newton took home a major prize at Berlinale 2017 and showcases one of India’s brightest acting talents. Want to know more?

  • In Chhattisgarh, where the film is set, a war has been raging for decades between Communist guerrillas, known as Maoists, and the Indian state.
  • Stars Rajkummar Rao, one of Indian cinema’s emerging actors who has worked with director Hansal Mehta on films such as Shahid, City Lights and Aligarh and the forthcoming Omerta.
  • Won the Art Cinema award for the Forum section at Berlinale where it also received a standing ovation.
  • Also stars Pankaj Tripathi, one of Hindie cinema’s best character actors.
  • This is director Amit Masurkar’s second film. His debut was Sulemani Keeda (Writers) in 2014, a mumblecore slacker comedy.

Court

Chaitanya Tamhane turned heads with his directorial debut Court, a docu-fiction political drama that bagged a major award at the Venice Film Festival.

  • Premiered at the 71st Venice International Film Festival where it won the Best Film in the Horizons category and the Luigi De Laurentiis award for director Chaitanya Tamhane.
  • The film has won 18 awards at film festivals.
  • The film took three years to make and was produced by Vivek Gomber who also plays the defence lawyer in the film.
  • The film was partly funded by the Hubert Bals Fund of International Film Festival in Rotterdam.
  • Won the award for Best Feature film at the 62nd National Film Awards in India.
  • Court is one of the most critically acclaimed contemporary Indian films of recent years along with Ship of Theseus and Ankhon Dekhi.

Kothanodi

Horror film Kothanodi focuses on four women connected by motherhood and projects their anxieties against a fantastical folk-lore inspired backdrop…

  • The budget for the film was raised through crowdfunding.
  • Kothanodi is based on a popular collection of folk stories compiled by Assamese writer Lakshminath Bezbaroa.
  • On average there are over twenty Assamese films produced each year.
  • Stars two of Indian cinema’s most respected actors – Seema Biswas (Bandit Queen) and Adil Hussain (Life of Pi, Sunrise).
  • The horror genre is still a relatively dormant one in Indian cinema so makes Kothanodi exceptional as Indian folk horror cinema.
  • Kothanodi was the first time an Assamese film was selected by the Asian Cinema Fund, South Korea for its Post Production Grant 2015.

Not Just Bollywood runs from Thu Sep 14 – Sat 30 Sep. Find out more and book tickets here.

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