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Director Benegal opens with Ankur

Published Oct 05, 2012 06:01am

Veteran director Shyam Benegal.–AFP file photo

LAHORE: A festival of films by celebrated Indian filmmaker Shyam Benegal began here at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan auditorium on Thursday with the screening of Mr Benegal’s debut movie Ankur.

A large number of people watched the film with great interest and later asked the director questions.

The four-day festival has been organised by the Faiz Foundation Trust. This is the third visit of Mr Benegal to Pakistan. He had previously visited Lahore on the invitation of the Faiz Foundation Trust in 1993 and 1996.

During his stay in Lahore, he is scheduled to deliver lectures at the Beaconhouse National University, National College of Arts and the Lahore School of Economics besides giving interviews to Pakistan Radio, Pakistan Television and a number of private channels.

Before the screening on Thursday, Mr Benegal briefly introduced Ankur to audience and narrated the difficulties he encountered during its making. He had no funds but was bailed out by a friend. It was the very first film for the now famous Shabana Azmi and most of the crew was inexperienced.

The passion was not lacking, though, and when Ankur was released in 1973 it made a huge impact. And after making three other landmark films - Nishant (1975), Manthan (1976) and Bhumika (1977) - Mr Benegal was credited with creating “middle” or “parallel” cinema in India. He does not like the terms himself and prefers to call his work as new or alternate cinema.

Mr Benegal was awarded the Padma Shri in 1976 and the Padma Bhushan in 1991. On Aug 8, 2007, Benegal was awarded the highest award in Indian cinema for lifetime achievement, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. He has won the National Film Award for the Best Feature Film in Hindi seven times and his work includes intricate creations such as ‘Mandi’.

Ankur (The Seedling) captures an urban youth’s affair with the wife of a labourer (played powerfully by Shabana Azmi). The woman’s eventual call to arms against the feudal system brought him criticism for using a purportedly “un-Indian” approach in his films and also for “victimizing” women. The film unquestionably had the merit of bringing the problem of feudal and patriarchal structures to the fore.

According to Ms Muneeza Hashmi of the Faiz Foundation Trust, the interest of the audience in the first film of the festival was immense. A large number of people are expected to turn up for the screening of ‘Zubaida’ at 5pm on Friday (today).

The festival will continue till Sunday.