A firm milestone now with a run of eleven years behind it, the Habitat Film festival has become the capital’s coveted showcase for the best of Pan Indian cinema. The package of films in the festival are one of its kind opportunity, to soak in the wealth of the creative outpourings of the country’s leading talent. The focus of this year’s festival remained unchanged, turning the spotlight on cinema from India that is beyond the brouhaha and blaze of mainstream Bollywood.
“This year, we have brought a selection that will entertain, enchant, engage, delight and disturb in varying measure in a nine-day cinematic voyage that travels across the vast terrain of the land and gives you a window into the soul of the country. The content and themes are varied and span themes as diverse as displacement, migration, intolerance, gender, caste, corrupt systems and destruction of environment and indigenous culture. Negotiating their way through all this, are the wonderful narratives of love, courage, aspiration and resilience of the human spirit,” said Vidyun Singh, director of the festival.
The inauguration happened with a retrospective celebrating the work of actor-dancer Helen at Stein Auditorium, followed by a screening of a documentary on her titled, Queen of the Nautch, directed by Anthony Kroner. The film is a timeless tribute to Helen, the screen goddess, her core dignity that carries off — even vindicates — the kitsch and glitz of Bollywood , and justifies the most popular genre in motion picture history. Extravagantly romantic fantasies are the stuff of this popular art form, of which Helen was clearly the “Queen”.
The retrospective on Helen was the highlight of this year’s fest, whose individualistic portrayals created an irreplicable signature style - a style and fan following, that took her from ‘item to icon’ and carved out a special niche in the annals of Indian film history.
The screening was followed by a talk on her contribution to dance in Indian cinema by Jerry Pinto who also happens to be the author of Helen: The Life and Times of an H-Bomb ( which had received the National Film Award for Best Book on Cinema in 2006).
Unveiling the diversity of our landscapes and people, bound however by the common thread of the issues that the changing world around us has churned up, the fest this year chose to exhibit the best of Pan Indian cinema: there’s the acclaimed Marathi film Arunodoy, Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh, Kaushik Ganguly’s Cinemawala and so forth.
A special screening of films from the North East also took place, bringing in gems such as Onaatah (Khasi), Kothanodi (Assamese), Antareen (Assamese), Nodi Mathu Boi (Assamese), Eibusu Yaohanbiyu (Manipuri) and Kima Lode (Mizo).
The festival closed with the screening of the much talked about and well received Angry Indian Goddesses.