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Irfana Majumder’s Hindi debut Shankar’s Fairies to have its World Premiere at 74th Locarno Film

Photo Credit: Supplied

Irfana Majumdar’s debut Hindi feature to have its World Premiere at the ’74th Locarno Film Festival’ in the competition section, ‘Concorso Cineasti del Presente’, which showcases 15 features (first and second) by emerging global talents.

The film produced by Nita Kumar Productions will have its premiere screening on August 13 at the prestigious film festival held in person from August 4 to 14 in Locarno, Switzerland. The film gala had gone digital for its 2020 edition owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

The film set in 1962 Lucknow in a newly independent and idealistic India that is still class-bound and exploitative, the film tells the story of Shankar, a village man with a gift for storytelling who brings up a police officer’s daughter while far away from his own family.

Based on the childhood memories of her mother Nita Kumar and shot in her ancestral home, it’s a personal film for the director Irfana Majumdar. The core team includes her mother Nita Kumar (writer, producer, and production designer of the film) and husband, Gaurav Saini (associate and casting director, actor).

Irfana also made her acting debut in a prominent role in the film along with Jaihind Kumar, Shreeja Mishra, Adwik Mathur and Gaurav Saini.

Excited about the Locarno Premiere the debutante Irafana says, “This is an intimate film, about the almost-unnoticed moments of life that shape us and our choices. We are tremendously excited for the film to be opening at Locarno and for people from around the world to watch it.”

The producer of the film Nita Kumar says, “My own life was shaped by Shankar….I believe all children are influenced by stories, images and treasure the adults who share their imaginations with them.”

The film was part of the prestigious 2019 Film Bazaar’s Work-In-Progress Lab and ‘NFDC Film Bazaar’ Goes to ‘Cannes’ at 2020 Marche Du Film.

Irfana’s note:

Much of the story and characters are built from my mother’s childhood memories. My grandparents lived in a house from the colonial era, built by my great-grandfather. The specificity of the physical world, its habits and objects, were important to us. They have a beauty and fragility that mask an entrenched hierarchy and system of oppression that haunts India even today. My grandparents loved beautiful things, good food, and socializing. There was no one who didn’t exclaim over their flowerbeds, artfully arranged rooms, and tastefully planned menus. However, the truth about this lifestyle was that it was only possible through the labour of an army of servants: individuals part of an injustice so deeply embedded that even today it is unquestioned and taken advantage of by a whole class of ‘Good People’. We arrive at this difficult truth by getting to know the characters intimately—their dreams, everyday encounters, inner conflicts. When we see that people are all the same—individuals on the same journey through life—then the harsh reality of the social situation is the most striking and intolerable.

The house is a silent witness. A larger-than-life setting that shelters and endures. The scenes are calm and stage-like – minimal camera movement and close-ups, an active inclusion of the setting – objects and colors and textures that surround the characters, so that they are in a sense equals with a life of their own. There is a feel of unhurried life and of intimacy in a large space. The arrangement of scenes is intuitive and rhythmic rather than linear and logical. This propels the viewer’s growing concern for the characters and builds up a sense of drama and urgency with regard to their fate.

About Irfana Majumdar:

Irfana Majumdar is the founding artistic director of the ‘Nirman Theatre & Film Studio’ in Varanasi, India. She studied Performance at the University of Chicago, and has been awarded fellowships for her commitment to themes of social justice and process of collaborative creation. She has directed and edited three documentaries. ‘Shankar’s Fairies’ is her first feature film and has been a deeply personal artistic experience.

About Nita Kumar:

Nita is a professor of History and Anthropology with decades of research and publishing on the issues of social inequality, poverty and suffering, and children’s imagination. She is the director of a non-profit organisation based in Varanasi, India, for leadership, education, and the arts in India, which produces performances in theatre, music and dance, film, and children’s books. This story is a fictionalised version of her childhood memories of growing up in an elite home with a close friendship and dependence on a servant with a rural background: the human face of the rural-urban problem, the pain of servitude, gender conflict, and elite power and exploitation.

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