regular-article-logo Monday, 17 June 2024

Darjeeling director bags jury award at Czech film festival for Nepali film Guras

37-year-old Saurav Rai's film wins hearts at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

Vivek Chhetri Darjeeling Published 11.07.23, 08:21 AM
(Left to right) Naresh Pradhan, Francois-Zavier Durandy, Menuka Pradhan and Saurav Rai

(Left to right) Naresh Pradhan, Francois-Zavier Durandy, Menuka Pradhan and Saurav Rai Telegraph picture

Darjeeling boy Saurav Rai, 37, has won a jury award at the prestigious Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic for his Nepali feature film Guras (rhododendron).

“There were definitely many entries of which 11 films from across the world had been shortlisted. I was happy that my film had also been selected but I had never imagined that it would bag the award,” said Rai, speaking to The Telegraph soon after coming from the Czech Republic on Monday evening. The award, which was announced on July 8, carries a prize money of USD 10,000.


With this award, Rai now joins illustrious actors and filmmakers from Bengal who have been recognised at this festival.

In 1972, Ranjit Mullick won the best actor award at the festival for his debut film Interview, directed by Mrinal Sen. In 1976, Satyajit Ray’s Jana Aranya won the best film award at the festival, while Mrinal Sen got the special jury mention for Oka Oori Katha (the Marginal) in 1978.

The other Indian actors to win awards at the Karlovy Vary IFF include Nargis for Mother India (1958) and Om Puri for Ardh Satya in 1984.

Guras is Rai’s second film after Nimtoh (The Invitation) in 2019. “In Nimtoh, my entire family had acted. It also did well and won the jury award for screenwriting at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2019,” said Rai.

The Darjeeling director had hit the headlines earlier too. In 2016, his short film Gudh (Nest) was selected to be screened at the prestigious Cannes film festival. In 2013, he was invited to Beijing to make documentaries and in 2014 he was invited to the Munich Film Festival where his short story Bharkhay Jhari (monsoon rain) was screened.

“It (early success) does spike your confidence massively but the underlying struggle of a filmmaker is always there,” said Rai, who has been based in Mumbai for the past eight years.

Guras is a story about a nine-year-old girl and her adventure while trying to find her pet dog. In fact, he was inspired by his mother’s similar incident when their family had lost a dog.

The girl’s role is played by Tulshi Khawash, a girl from a remote village called Chukim near Bagrakote, Kalimpong. “My brother-in-law used to teach there and he told me about her when I was looking for my cast. She is an untrained actor, comes from a remote village and from a weak financial background. However, the moment I met her I was impressed by her talent,” said Rai.

Rai himself comes from Bara Mangwa, a village about 30km from Darjeeling and after pursuing mass communication at St Joseph’s School (North Point) in Darjeeling he studied at the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute in Calcutta.

For this village boy, recognition at the international level is helping him get financers. The Rs 1.5-crore Guras is being funded by Sanjay Gulati’s Delhi-based production house Crawling Angel Films and Nepal-based Ram Krishan Pokharel’s Icefalls Prods.

Rai also managed to rope well-known names in the Kathmandu-based Nepali film industry like Menuka Pradhan and Khagendra Lamichhane. “I am now looking at a language shift” said Rai after two successful Nepali feature films.

Follow us on: