KTRU Explores the “Festival of Experimental Films from India”

Dr. Ratheesh Radhakrishnan and KTRU’s Varsha Vakil at the film festival at Rice Cinema.

Dr. Ratheesh Radhakrishnan and KTRU’s Varsha Vakil at the film festival at Rice Cinema.

HOUSTON: KTRU’s Navrang show expands its understanding of India’s Experimental films by hosting two informative interviews. The first interview on Saturday, April 6 was with director Gurvinder Singh, India’s 2011 National Award winner for the Punjabi film Anhe Ghore Da Daan (Alms for the Blind Horse). KTRU’s Navrang show director Varsha Vakil introduced listeners to this film through the lens of Gurvinder Singh. Samhita Sunya, a Rice University graduate student accompanied in the conversation and shared information about the film festival.

A lively interview ensued in which Singh spoke about his journey from journalism to film school to his making of critically-acclaimed 2011 feature that won National Awards for Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Direction in Punjabi films. Singh explained on KTRU that the film was adapted from a Punjabi novel by the same name written by Gurdial Singh, to whom a Jnanpith (highest Indian literary honor) was awarded in 2000.

 Alms for the blind horse, Singh clarified is a phrase that refers to a custom by which alms are requested in the name of a blind horse on the night of a lunar eclipse.  However, the film – like the novel – does not take up this idea in any literal fashion, but rather explores it symbolically, as it tells the story of a community of poor farmers who continue their everyday struggles within a feudal structure controlled by landowners – a structure that remains in place despite other changes in size, growth, transportation, and technology that have overtaken the rural town.

The second interview was hosted on Saturday, April 13 with the Festival of Experimental Films from India’s curator, the visiting humanities scholar Dr. Ratheesh Radhakrishnan from the Indian Institute of Technology-Mumbai.  The festival showcased contemporary experimental films as well as a retrospective of films by the renowned, late filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak.  Dr. Radhakrishnan pointed out the coincidental connection between director Gurvinder Singh’s mentor late Mani Kaul, a student of Ghatak, and the retrospective of Ritwik Ghatak at the festival.

Houstonians devoured this rare treat hosted at Rice University. This one of a kind film festival was free to the public and commenced at Rice Cinema (Rice Media Center) on April 5 and ended on April 15. The festival was presented by Rice University’s Chao Center of Asian Studies in conjunction with the Rice Visual and Dramatic Arts Department.

Legendary filmmaker Ritwik Kumar Ghatak films at the festival were the Golden Line, The Cloud Capped Star, A Soft Note on a Sharp Scale and A River Called Titash. Dr. Radhakrishnan emphasized on KTRU the innate artistry captured in each of these films and the brilliance in direction exhibited by Ritwik Ghatak.  Varsha praised other extraordinary films at the festival – Miss Lovely, Bidesia in Bambai and Nainsukh.

Navrang show is one of KTRU’s specialty shows. Navrang show airs on Saturday’s from 10am to noon.  Listen to the 24/7 radio station via ktru.org, iheartradio app, iPhone and droid apps or on the dial at 90.1FM HD2. For more information about KTRU’s Navrang show email ktru@ktru.org.