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Film on India’s 1984 Anti-Sikh Pogrom Wins Award in Venice Film Fest





Shubhashish Bhutiani’s 20-minute drama “Kush” about the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom in India, has won the Best Short Film award at the 70th edition of the world’s oldest film festival -- in Venice, Italy.

It was the only South Asian film to have made it to the Orizzonti (Horizons) section of the Venice Film Festival which is dedicated to new trends. It had 30 other films competing for a Jury Prize besides Best Film and Short Film at the August 28-September 7 festival.

The movie is about a lone Sikh boy named Kush in a group of 10-year-olds at a school picnic, who is protected by a teacher as murderous mobs tear around the Indian capital city of New Delhi after the assassination of PM Indira Gandhi at the hands of India‘s elite security force assigned to guard her.

Behind the movie, starring Shayaan Sameer as Kush and Sonika Chopra as the teacher, is a real-life inspiration and a 22-year-old Mumbai-born, Mussoorie-bred director, Bhutiani, who made it for graduation at New York’s School of Visual Arts. Bhutiani said the story was of his Class 11 economics teacher.

“She had told the story once in class. I was attracted because it commented on India as a country, but in a unique way -- bleak, yet inspirational.”

Bhutiani said the dark days remain: “There are still instances of violence against Sikhs and other religious minorities” in the country.

In the Orizzonti section, the award for Best Film went to ‘Eastern Boys’ by Robin Campillo (France), while the Jury Prize went to ‘Ruin’ by Michael Cody and Amiel Courtin-Wilson (Australia).

For those wanting to watch ‘Kush‘, Bhutiani plans to put the movie online for free, though he says that a commercial release for the movie in India remained a dream. Made on a shoestring budget of less than Rs. 1 million, ‘Kush’ also got the Best Innovative Budget Award for a Foreign Film given by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and Borsa Italiana.

The cast are friends and neighbours of Bhutiani’s parents in Mumbai, and the movie is shot on the city’s outskirts and in a national park. On how he entered the Venice fest, he said it was a suggestion from his doting dad, “I submitted it without expectation … Someone please tell me I'm not dreaming!”

In 2011, a Punjabi film,  Gurvinder Singh‘s ‘Anhey Ghorrey Da Daan’, was presented in the Orizzonti section.

In addition to the acclaim it received around the world, including in Venice, ‘Anhey Ghorrey …’ later also won three National Awards in the subcontinent. 

Bhutiani plans to make a love story next.

Italian film ‘Sacro GRA’ about people living along the ring road around Rome won the Golden Lion for overall best film at the festival. In 1957, the Bengali film ‘Aparajito’ by Satyajit Ray had won the Golden Lion, while director Mira Nair’s ‘Monsoon Wedding’ won in 2001.


[Courtesy: Hindustan Times. Edited for]

September 13, 2013


Conversation about this article

1: Raj (Canada), September 13, 2013, 7:34 PM.

Interesting, a non-Sikh makes a Sikh theme movie and wins well-deserving award. Our Sikhs make caste-centric movies like "Jutt da this", "Jutt da that" and glorify violence, drinking and other evils. My question to all of us would, Who is the real Sikh?

2: Hardarshan Singh Vaia (Highland, California, USA), September 15, 2013, 9:25 PM.

We are grateful to Mr. Bhutiani for his efforts. It pains me to see that he plans to put the movie online for free and a commercial release is a distant dream. Other film makers such as Vinanti Sarkar (Mistaken Identity) and Shonali Bose (Amu) who produced Sikh-themed movies had to undergo terrible financial hardship. If 769 Sikhs make a concerted effort to buy Kush at 20$/person, Mr. Bhutiani can at least recover his investment. Let us show our appreciation. Can any one provide me with Mr. Bhutiani's contact details?

3: Jaskamal (Canada), September 20, 2013, 10:50 AM.

@Hardarshan Singh" This link might be helpful

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