City boy's short films make Cannes cut

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By SUDESHNA BANERJEE
  • Published 14.05.10
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Mrinal Sen won’t be the only Calcuttan whose work (Kandahar) would be featured in the Cannes Film Festival this year. A campaign against domestic violence called Bell Bajao, directed by former student of South Point Bauddhayan Mukherji, has made it to the festival’s Short Film Corner.

The film is one of the six chosen in a section called Speak Out Against Domestic Violence Short Film Contest, with entries from the Netherlands, Mexico, the UK and the US. “The fact that it is a competitive section and that too in the Cannes Film Festival makes it so special,” says the 36-year-old Bauddhayan, who set up his production unit Little Lamb Films two years ago.

Bell Bajao, or Ring The Bell, is a series of three one-minute films which Bauddhayan had created for Breakthrough, a New York-based NGO working in India. “The films appeal to men who are not abusers. Statistics had revealed that though a small number of men are perpetrators of domestic violence, a significant number are silent observers. These ads urge them to speak up,” says the Mumbai resident.

The films show a man, alerted by a woman’s cries, walking over to the house and ring the bell on a variety of pretexts — asking for a cup of milk, to use the phone or to retrieve a lost cricket ball.

Bell Bajao, which has gone into a second season, has been riding high on awards. “A gold and a silver at Goafest in 2009, two golds at the Indian Documentary Producers Association Awards, a Spikes Asia gold, a Community Engagement Award at the Media That Matters festival in New York, a special jury mention at the Expresion En Corto Film Festival in Mexico, United Nations Population Fund — Laadli Media Awards 2009 presented on Wednesday evening...,” Bauddhayan runs out of fingercount.

But before the results are declared at Cannes, he is keeping his fingers crossed for yet another award. Bell Bajao has made it to the finals in the Public Service — Television — Campaign Category at One Show, one of the biggest platforms for advertising in the world that will declare the awards list in New York on Friday morning, India time.

Yet when he thinks back, it is a comment by a friend who underwent a messy divorce that Bauddhayan values most. “‘Couldn’t you make the films earlier? Someone might have rung the bell at my door too,’ she had told me. But ever since the films went on air I hope the bell has been ringing at some doors in time,” he says.