Home Entertainment Berlin’s Indian Trio Marks Sophomore Efforts of Acclaimed Emerging Filmmakers

Berlin’s Indian Trio Marks Sophomore Efforts of Acclaimed Emerging Filmmakers


The Berlin Film Festival has just three Indian narrative fiction features in the 2024 lineup, but all of them are sophomore efforts by filmmakers who have already won global acclaim for their debuts.

Raam Reddy burst onto the international scene with “Thithi” (“Funeral”), which won the Golden Leopard — Filmmakers of the Present and the First Feature awards at Locarno in 2015. Reddy’s ”The Fable,” which screens in Berlin’s Encounters strand, follows a happy family who live as owners of a vast Himalayan orchard, until a series of mysterious fires bring into question who they really are. The cast includes Manoj Bajpayee, Priyanka Bose, Deepak Dobriyal, Tillotama Shome and Hiral Sidhu.

P.S. Vinothraj won Rotterdam’s top award, the Tiger, for “Koozhangal” (“Pebbles”) in 2021. Vinothraj’s “Kottukkaali” (“The Adamant Girl“), screening in Berlin’s Forum strand, follows a young woman who is in love with a man from one of India’s so-called “lower” castes and refuses to speak. Her family thinks she is possessed and try to cast the spell out of her. Anna Ben and Soori star.

Siddartha Jatla’s “Love and Shukla” debuted at Busan in 2017. It was the beginning of a stellar festival run that included a best film win at the Jogja-Netpac Asian Film Festival. Jatla’s ”In the Belly of a Tiger,” also screening in the Forum strand, follows an old couple struggling with their farm’s debts. The man decides to let himself be killed by a tiger to save his family. Their last night becomes a surreal love story. The cast features Francis Lawrence, Poonam Tiwari, Sorabh Jaiswar, Jyoti and Sonali.

While “Thithi” tapped into a world that already existed, for “The Fable,” Reddy wanted to create a world from scratch. “I have always been drawn to magical elements, to that ‘something more’ that sneaks into life, making it a little better, a little deeper. So I created a world where things happened that I wanted to happen to me,” Reddy says. “A man in the film clamps on homemade bird wings, and jumps off a cliff for a morning flight. A teenage girl has telepathic communication with a saintly nomad in the woods. I wanted to create a world where things like that happen, and you believe they could be true. This felt like an exciting challenge after the humor of ‘Thithi.’ Can I pull off a slow-burn, both layered and gripping, in a world that meets my fancy? This was the pursuit that led to this film.”

Vinothraj made “Pebbles” based on a real-life incident that disturbed him deeply. “The Adamant Girl” is based on an incident that took place within his close family circle. “My research showed me that these rituals and blind beliefs, under different names, take place all over India and I wanted to address this as it is a very disturbing, painful and sensitive issue,” Vinothraj says.

Jatla also found inspiration from real life. An article he read about the death of a woman who was suspected of sacrificing her life to a tiger to save her family haunted him. “I wanted to understand, beyond the sensational headline, what might lead someone to that decision,” Jatla says. The filmmaker spent several years living with families in the area where that incident was reported. “I wanted my film to be a conduit to tell the story of the families and people I met throughout my time in their villages,” Jatla said. “I also wanted to show the beauty of these families, the love of these families — something that’s often lost in the outward gaze of media speculating about an incident like this.”

While Reddy did his second feature with the producers who backed his first film, Vinothraj and Jatla have had different journeys. “Pebbles” was produced by filmmaker Vignesh Shivan, known for his mainstream hit films and top Indian actor Nayanthara. “The Adamant Girl” is backed by Sivakarthikeyan, a big star of commercial cinema. “They may not be able to act in these films but they believe in the stories and backed me fully to make the films I wanted to make,” Vinothraj says, adding that the backing of big stars enhances the reach of the films. “The Adamant Girl” is produced by Sivakarthikeyan and Kalai Arasu for SK Prods.

“In the Belly of a Tiger” is an India, China, U.S., Taiwan, Indonesia co-production with Sarda Uma (Bhairavi Films), Li Fang (Wonder Pictures), Bhavana Goparaju (Jeevi Films), Patrick Mao Huang (Flashforward Entertainment) and Giovanni Rahmadeva and Axel Hadiningrat from Qun Films serving as producers. “Everyone came together after seeing my first film and their genuine belief in the story I was working to tell,” Jatla says.

“The Fable” is a co-production between Raam and Pratap Reddy’s India-based Prspctvs Prods. and Sunmin Park and J. Ethan Park’s Los Angeles-based production company Maxmedia.

While Vinothraj hasn’t decided what his next film is going to be, after two village-oriented films, he’d like to tell a story set in a city. Jatla and his co-writer Amanda Mooney are working on their next film, “a different kind of love story,” Jatla says. Reddy is keen to adapt a classic with fantasy elements. Adapting his magic realism novel “It’s Raining in Maya” for the big screen is also an option.