The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Beyond barbed wires
Breaking free: Sreelekha Mitra in a moment from Kantatar

With two of his films captivating foreign audiences, director Bappaditya Bandopadhyay has turned out to be yet another favourite of festivals from Bengal.

If Devaki bagged the best feature film award at the Ashville Film Festival in the US, Kantatar is travelling to its sixth international film festival (Friborg in Switzerland) this March.

If Devaki was all about two women being bruised and exploited by patriarchy, Kantatar (Barbed Wire) tracks down yet another woman criss-crossing barbed fences in search of an identity.

The low-budget film had a weeklong run at Nandan early this month, but the director expects a better response to Kantatar when it releases at the same venue on January 31.

'Kantatar is a film made very passionately and has a universal story. It's not about a particular region. This could also happen in Iran, Iraq or Chechnya. It relates to emigrants all over the world' The barbed wire not only exists between two countries but also among two individuals,' says Bappaditya, about his fourth feature film.

At the core of Kantatar is an illegal migrant Sudha who flits in and out of religions and relationships ' first with a weather balloonist and then with his assistant ' in search of shelter and security. Shot at Jhumridilaya in Jharkhand amidst a lot of greenery, the backdrop of the film is an imaginary military invasion in the Indo-Bangladesh border in contemporary times. The entry of the army scars the small village on the frontier, toppling its socio-political balance and the more personal worlds of the residents as well.

'Kantatar primarily deals with violence in everyday life. The prospects of a big violence hidden in small fights. The struggle for survival was also there among two individuals in my second film Shilpantar. I have dealt with the various forms of violence' what happens when the defender of the society turns violent. In Kantatar, the woman faces an identity crisis ' in terms of passport, ration card, voter ID, which seems terrible to me,' explains Bappaditya, who had roped in Bollywood names like Perizaad Zorabian and Suman Ranganathan for Devaki.

Kantatar though is shorn of any high-voltage glamour as Bappaditya has opted for TV artistes ' Sreelekha Mitra, Sudeep Mukherjee and Rudranil Ghosh ' who 'matched the characters'.

'The success of a film doesn't depend on the cast. It may give some mileage in terms of publicity, but otherwise it's not possible for an actor to give his or her best in a language that they don't know,' stresses the director.

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