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Short film stands tall

- Young Palamau filmmaker bags national award

Ranchi, April 20: What does Jharkhand film The Lost Behrupiya have in common with Bollywood blockbuster Bhaag Milkha Bhaag? Both are on the winning list of the 61st National Film Awards for 2013 announced on April 16.

Directed by Sriram Dalton, a 34-year-old filmmaker from Palamau, The Lost Behrupiya in Hindi won the Rajat Kamal under “Best Arts/Cultural Film” jointly with an English-Telugu offering, Oh Friend, This Waiting! The joint winners will share the cash award of Rs 50,000.

The Union ministry of information and broadcasting, which announced the names, said in its media release why Sriram’s film made the cut: “For a near surreal depiction of a dying art form in a globalised society. The film combines elements of drama and visual art with a lament for a rich cultural tradition.”

Sriram, credited with direction, story and screenplay of this 10-minute film, powerfully captures the pathos and power of behrupiyas — nomadic performing artistes who masquerade as mythological characters, tigers and the like.

With elaborate body and face paint and costumes, Behrupiyas have been roaming the towns and villages of the Indian subcontinent since centuries. And before the age of film, television and Internet, they had the power to entertain, even enthrall the masses.

Now, the art form is dying. Behrupiyas are either ignored or ridiculed. At a time when India is making special effects films on mutants like Krrish 3, their homespun magic has faded.

In 1989, Bengali filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s film Bagh Bahadur also showed a behrupiya who donned a tiger costume for his livelihood but found his popularity waning when pitted against a circus tiger. That film had also won the national award.

“The subject had always fascinated me,” said Sriram, who, after his graduation in fine arts from the BHU, shifted to Mumbai. “I shot the 10-minute film over a period of three years and completed it last December.”

The sensitive filmmaker said that the topic was even more moving for him as it was a dying art practised by living human beings. “It’s about extraordinary lives on the margins,” said the young filmmaker who made an incredible journey from a village boy of Daltonganj’s Karamdih to a national award-winning filmmaker.

The news of Sriram’s win went largely unnoticed in the state as national awards were announced on the eve of the second day of Lok Sabha polls in Jharkhand.

Sriram, who spoke to The Telegraph on Saturday night from Pareh village in Palamau, said it didn’t matter. “I am happy for myself, my film, the production house (Holybull Entertainment) and my state,” he said.

Busy shooting his debut full-length feature film Spring Thunder in and around Pareh and Karamdih, Sriram said he loved “being immersed in work”. “I hope to make a mark with Spring Thunder also. I hope to complete it by year-end,” he said.

He hopes for global laurels for The Lost Behrupiya as well. “It has been nominated for best documentary and best hair and make-up categories at Mexico’s Cancun edition of Golden Egg Film Festival that begins on April 30. Fingers crossed,” Sriram said. He laughingly added that he was invited to Mexico but would need money for the trip. “I am hoping the state government pitches in to help me now for the trip, perhaps,” he said.


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