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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 

 

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IFFI 52, 020: Covid and a crow

IFFI 52, 020: Covid and a crow

IFFI 52 Indian Panorama Film Teen Adhyay seeks to light a candle of hope in the darkness, following COVID-19. It is based on the optimistic dictum: “However deep the night, there will always be a new dawn.”

“During the COVID-19 lockdown, I saw a crow making its nest by my window; this scene made me forget everything else happening around me.” This singular focus which followed what may otherwise have been dismissed as an inconsequential occurrence is what led Mumbai-based Odia filmmaker Subash Sahoo to make Teen Adhyay, a powerful cinematic expression of hope amidst despair. Having been perceptive enough to “see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower”, so to say, the director started shooting the crow on camera. “My son, who was trapped inside our house because of the lockdown, was enjoying this process.”

The Director was addressing a Meet the Directors press conference on the side-lines of the 52nd International Film Festival of India, held in Goa. Teen Adhyay has been screened under the Non- Feature Film Category of the Indian Panorama Section. Producers Suvir Nath, Suprabha Sahoo and music director Manish Pingley too joined the director for the interaction with media and film lovers.

The director explained how he vicariously joined the life journey of the crow, leading him to conceptualise and shoot the film amidst the nation-wide COVID-19 lockdown. “As I started capturing the movements of that crow, it soon became the cynosure of our entire household. For another 6-7 months, I followed the progress of that life on every single day. I tried to trace the journey of that crow: its birth, how it nurtures her little ones with love, care, and unflinching dedication; and, of course, the inescapable dance of death, when it loses one of its chicks.”

So, what did the director see in the crow, that the less observant among us could perhaps have missed? “Despite the troubles and the losses of life, still, for that crow, life does go on. If there is life, there will be death as well; if there is dawn, there is dusk as well, happiness and grief too are two sides of the same coin.” It is the same percipience which we find in the boy in the film too, who observes various phases of the crow’s life, with a heart full of childlike wonder, unmindful of the COVID-19 crisis and the resultant chaos engulfing the world outside him.

Sahoo exudes confidence that every calamity in life will be followed by the flowering of new hopes. “Teen Adhyay has been trying to instill hope and positivity in human minds, when their sub-conscious minds gave them but signals of despair. The whole world had come to a standstill due to COVID-19. There was too much negativity around.”

How does the film inspire its viewers to aim for the stars from the valley of despair? “We have weaved the entire narrative of the film based on ancient Indian philosophy, which views life as a continuing cycle of three eternal episodes of 'Utpatti' (Birth), 'Vipatti' (Calamity) and 'Chakra' (Continuity). Teen Adhyay portrays how the three episodes unfold before the innocent child's curious eyes, leaving behind a timeless life lesson for him as well as for the world at large.”

Producer Suvir Nath too spoke about the urge the film-makers felt to hold out a candle of spring amidst the winter of dejection and hopelessness. “We felt there is a need to say that however deep the night may be, there will always be a new dawn awaiting us.”

Why talk only about death when death is but part of a cycle, asks Nath. “Our movie tells how our life, events, emotions, relationships, etc. all go through a circle of highs and lows. What has germinated will come to an end and will take birth again, only to perish. The cycle thus continues endlessly. Then why should we talk only about death?”

As the name implies, Teen Adhyay is presented as three chapters. Three music directors have lent their scores, one for each chapter. Manish Pingley, one of the music directors explained how they employed music evocatively in order to convey the cycle of life and death, how they used it to represent the film’s emotion: “The first Adhyay starts with a very peaceful Aalap, denoting birth. The next one brings in some tensions signifying calamity, leading eventually to crescendo in the final Adhyay.”

Perhaps drawing from the crow, the film has no dialogues at all. Sahoo, who has been a renowned sound engineer, explained the cinematic elements employed to communicate without dialogues. “Music plays a crucial role in our film. Since there are no dialogues, we wanted the communication to happen through music. Since the film is based on Indian philosophy, we wanted to use Indian ragas. I wanted to enhance the visuals through traditional Indian classical music.”

Thanking IFFI for giving the movie a platform to showcase to larger audience, Sahoo said, “It is my first IFFI and I feel really grateful.”

Subash Sahoo is a national award-winning sound designer. He has worked in several noted films including Kaminey, NH10, Neerja and Tumhari Sulu, among others.

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

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