FEB 2020  
IFFI 2019: Films, Now, Put Environment in Focus! International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2019

One of the first and most significant film festivals of Asia, IFFI is organized by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Goa Government’s Entertainment Society of Goa (ESG). The latest edition that concluded in November 2019 marked the 50th edition of the festival that started in 1952 with the patronage of India’s first Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. It was only since 2004 that Goa was declared the permanent venue of the festival due to continuous efforts of Goa’s popular leader and former Chief Minister, late Shri Manohar Parrikar. Of the films screened at IFFI 2019, three touched upon different aspects of the environment - factors, issues and the people closest to it, that is, indigenous groups. Award-winning Assamese filmmaker Manju Borah’s In The Land of Poison Women focuses on aboriginal people in a remote part of Arunachal Pradesh. The idea was to showcase lives of the aboriginal people of Zemithang, locally known as Pangchen, the easternmost part of the country on the Indo-China border surrounded by breathtakingly tall mountains. Pangchen in local dialect means a place where no sin is committed. True to its meaning, the residents are strictly vegetarian and don’t even eat fish in the adjacent River Nyamjang Chu, do not hunt, and follow Buddhism. The zone is eco-sensitive and rich in biodiversity complete with deer, wild boars, and myriad breeds of birds. The film revolves around the lives of the natives who depend on their environment completely and is made in Pangchenpa - a dialect now spoken by only 5000 people.

And then, Bohubritta, a poetry film by Assamese filmmaker Utpal Dutta was screened at IFFI 2019 under the non-feature film section also tackling a vital environmental issue. This film captures the poetry of Swapna Dutta Deka who also provides the voice-over in the film by reciting her poetry. The film is a tribute to Assam’s heritage and rich tradition of worshipping the Tree and River, unique to this northeastern state. It is a vivid portrayal of the symbolic nuggets and nuances of the poetess’ words and flawlessly conveys to the viewer the deeper meanings and symbolisms. Nature has been worshipped in India since eternity. Indigenous groups around the world worship nature, its forces and elements - trees, birds and animals, land, mountains, rivers, seas, etc., - to form a harmonious relationship and as an ode to nature that sustains these groups. Assam, rich in biodiversity, has a huge knowledge base in plants and related resources. Many tribal groups in Assam preserve the tradition of worshipping trees through folklore and believe that gods reside in the forest trees.

Another film that hit the right nerve with its audience during IFFI 2019 was Hellaro directed by Abhishek Shah when it was screened as the opening ‘feature’ film in the Indian Panorama section. The film also won the Best Feature Film award at the 66th National Film Awards and Special Jury Award to the 13 leading actresses for their performances. Set in a remote hamlet in Kutch in Gujarat in the year 1975, the film depicts the journey of women ‘from suppression to expression’. Drought has ravaged this desert village and the lives of its residents. The desolate and isolated existence of the people also means no access to the government or its facilities. The villagers are on their own and their ‘patriarchal’ customs and mores are the only government they know. In order to please their goddess and offer prayer for rains, the men perform garba, the Gujarati folk dance. Women are prohibited from doing the same and are restricted to fetching water, running the household and quietly enduring the routine beating by their husbands. At the end, women break free of their shackles and perform garba and that is when the rains pour in.

Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Malayalam-language film Jallikattu is based on the traditional practice from southern India called Jallikattu (also known as eru thazhuvuthal and manju virattu). The film’s plot follows a buffalo that escapes from a slaughterhouse in a hilly remote village in Idukki in Kerala and the village men gathering to hunt down the animal. A buffalo butcher, who supplies meat to the entire village, lets a buffalo loose when a regular ritual of slaughter goes wrong. The buffalo runs amuck and creates havoc and in chasing the animal, the men of the village show their true characters and ‘animal instincts’. The film shows that it is man who is the beast and not the buffalo, as their basest instincts surface to defeat and capture the buffalo. They hardly speak but scream, growl and attack people and women. The movie reminds the viewers of the predatory behaviour of the male humans.

The evolution of Indian cinema narrates a remarkable journey of one of the largest and most popular film industries in the world. It is not that films on environmental issues and effect of climatic change and environment on humans were not made earlier. Why, Mother India that completed 60 years in 2017 showcased how a family is torn apart due to a natural calamity. The melodrama and grandeur aside, Mother India had mass appeal then and continues to draw audiences even now. The story, through the protagonist, Radha - played by Nargis, focused on how the poor farmer in India struggles survival between debts and natural calamities like droughts and floods.

Amir Khan’s Lagaan takes us to the pre-independent India where the British levy heavy fines or ‘lagaan’ on peasants, already suffering the brunt of drought, crop failure and consequent destitution and hunger. Several others such as Kedarnath, Kai Po Che, Jal, Bhopal Express, Toilet – Ek Prem Katha and more have aptly depicted the role environment plays in our lives.

Films form an integral part of society and have grown to become a ubiquitous art, transforming with time and new technology. Cinema’s reach cuts across socio-economic lines and other man-made boundaries. It is one of the best medium to reach out to the masses and convey messages of social responsibility and relevance. Only a fraction of India’s 1.3 billion population lives in urban areas. The majority, a significant chunk, stay in rural India which is agriculture-oriented and hence dependent on environmental variables and climatic factors. The impact of human action on environment has become a major concern for people and society nowadays. The fact that cinema can play a big role in saving the environment is being realized by many filmmakers who are taking up the responsibility to transform the society and the world into a better place to live in. Why, speaking at an event, even Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) Chairman Prasoon Joshi had emphasized on the ever-lasting impact cinema has on society and called for more ‘entertaining’ films with a focus on environmental issues to appeal to more people.

There are many thought-provoking films and documentaries that strive to garner attention on critical environmental issues through gripping narrations so that people’s thoughts turn into actions and create awareness and change. And, what better way to promote and showcase such films than at national and international film festivals. IFFI’s 50th edition led the way!

Ms Manu Shrivastava is a Media-Legal Researcher with think tank DraftCraft International. She writes widely on environment, climate change, women laws, and policy perception. 

© TERI 2020

Nominations open for CSP Today India awards 2013

The inaugural CSP Today India awards ceremony takes place on March 12, and CSP developers, EPCs, suppliers and technology providers can now be nominated.

CSP has made tremendous progress since the announcement of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission in 2010. With Phase I projects now drawing closer to completion, the first milestone in India’s CSP learning curve is drawing closer. CSP Today has chosen the next CSP Today India conference (12-13 March, New Delhi) as the time for the industry to reflect upon its progress and celebrate its first achievements.

At the awards ceremony, industry leaders will be recognized for their achievements in one of 4 categories: CSP India Developer Award, CSP India Engineering Performance Award, CSP India Technology and Supplier Award, and the prestigious CSP India Personality of the Year.

Matt Carr, Global Events Director at CSP Today, said at the opening of nominations that “CSP Today are excited to launch these esteemed awards, which will enhance the reputation of their recipients. I am particularly excited to launch the CSP India Personality of the Year award, a distinguished honor for the industry figure deemed worthy by their peers.”

All eyes will be on the CSP Today India 2013 Awards when nomination entry closes on February 4 and the finalists are announced on February 11. The awards are open to all industry stakeholders to nominate until February 4 at or by e-mail to [email protected]

Matt Carr
+44 (0) 20 7375 7248
[email protected]