The haunting climactic shot from Pyaasa – of an entire auditorium of people covered in the darkness watching a backlit Guru Dutt, who plays a despondent poet, with his hands outstretched like the Christ on the cross, sing, desolately, “Yeh Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaaye To Kya Hai” (What is this world to me, even if I can have it?) – is one of the most iconic images of Indian cinema. The film’s maker, Dutt himself, and the cinematographer, VK Murthy, have both passed away. But they continue to live in the memories of film lovers due to their brilliant body of work.
This year marks Murthy’s centenary birth anniversary. So, the organisers of the Bengaluru International Film Festival (BIFFes) find it appropriate to commemorate the event at the festival’s 14th edition, which will happen during March 23-30 at Orion Mall, Kannada Kalavidara Sangha, and Suchitra Film Society.
“VK Murthy is one of the legends of Indian cinema. He is an innovator par excellence. He mainly worked during the black-and-white era with film negatives. Being a cinematographer, I know how difficult it is to work with films. But the drama he could achieve with his visuals is simply extraordinary,” says Ashok Cashyap, the festival director and chairman of Karnataka Chalanchitra Academy.
“We will be screening some of his best films like Pyaasa, Kaagaz Ke Phool, and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. We are also planning to get people who have worked with Murthy to talk about him,” he added.
Murthy apart, the festival will also focus on the late Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène and the internationally renowned Chinese auteur Wong Kar-wai as a part of its ‘Retrospectives’ category.
“Despite the limited time, our team has curated 65 international films from around 50 countries,” says HN Narahari Rao, the artistic director of the festival. “We will also be revisiting many Indian and Kannada classics this year.
Rao observes that the lines between the different categories of films are starting to blur. “Earlier, there were separate audiences for parallel cinema, new-wave cinema, commercial cinema, and art cinema. But in this digital era, people watch all kinds of films. They may or may not like it. But there is no branding of films.”
Overall, 200 films will be screened at the eight-day festival, including two of Kannada cinema’s biggest hits last year, KGF 2 and Kantara, in the ‘Panorama of Popular Kannada Cinema’ section. These two films along with Charlie 777 put Kannada cinema in the spotlight.
“More and more people are watching Kannada cinema now. People who are new to Kannada cinema would want to know more about the craft and content of the filmmakers, and the nuances involved. So, the festival would be a good way for the cinephiles to know about these things,” says Cashyap.
The prize money for the three competition categories — Asian Cinema, Indian Cinema, and Kannada Cinema — has been increased this year (from ₹5 lakh to ₹10 lakh for the first prize, from ₹3 lakh to ₹5 lakh for the second, and from ₹1 lakh to ₹3 lakh for the third).
For registration and more information about BIFFes, visit biffes.org.