THE (IFFI) GRADUATE (2019)
After my second day of working at The Peacock at IFFI 2019, I watched The Truth (2019) based on the recommendation of a colleague who had enjoyed the work of director Hirokazu Kore-eda in the past. Tired on a Wednesday evening, The Truth was a sleepy but thoughtful refuge to sink into. The colleague later told me that they hadn’t loved it, but I had – the masterful acting and the subtle dialogue speaking to something within me.
Covering a festival for the first time, I have spoken to critics, curators, and directors who double as camerapersons, researchers, scriptwriters, editors, crew managers. I interview writers regularly, and it was fascinating to witness the ways in which the process of making films is different in that it involves considerable movement, interpersonal cooperation and technical challenges. I’ve always felt that interviews form essential metadata about the work of art. For example, the difficulty of shooting endemic frogs at night in a flowing stream is demystified for the viewer and the fellow filmmaker. Similarly, I found the conversations dismantled stereotypes – whether about the communities they covered or the nitty-gritty of festivals such as funding. Invariably, I find that when I am learning through the course of interviews, most readers will learn alongside me.
I was also assigned a daily slot in The Peacock to write, of all things, a poem. I am a poet in other spheres of my life, but I could not have guessed I’d be writing a poem a day related to the film festival or the cover art by the phenomenally talented Goan artist Sonia Rodrigues Sabharwal. For close to two decades, a puppet Sonia made has sat on my bookshelf, so it was rather serendipitous to write based off of her artwork. I wrote nine poems in nine days, in addition to profiles, covering topics such as the male gaze in films, the longest running film in India, violence in superhero movies and hand-painted posters. I also wrote Goa-centric pieces about the indigenous Kunbi saree, the Butterfly Conservatory in Ponda, and the Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary in Chorao. Fortified by the illustration of Fabian Gonsalves and Oriana Fernandes, I believe the poems tried to represent the best of both cinema culture and Goa.
I don’t kid myself that the poems are the product of excellent craftsmanship. These are poems written in a day as an extension of the journalism of The Peacock. They are raw, and full of my initial appraisal of any subject. Some more introspective, but by and large, I tried to convey lesser-known information or new perspectives I was surprised to discover that I could write a poem a day – much as I later discovered the cartoonist Nishant Saldanha did for last year’s Peacock. Every day, some readers drop by the office asking for an issue they missed. People want full sets, want the entire gamut. Part of that, I suspect, stems from the stunning visuals provided by our cover artist, illustrators, and portrait photographers Assavri Kulkarni and Siddhartha Lall.
As someone who’s been to multiple literary festivals, I know that I would have liked a regular publication to browse between events and carry home with me. People visiting this film festival also have the opportunity to enjoy art and writing. I find, in my own watching of films like Bombay Rose (2019) and The Secret Life of Frogs (2019), that I appreciate the context The Peacock provides as well as the contrasting opinions of my colleagues. What we share informally in the newsroom filters into the paper.
One of the strange distinctions of The Peacock is that very few of the writers are experts in film – though we share a layman’s love for it – which allows the paper to remain grounded and accessible. This is a relief to me, though perhaps not to cinephiles, because I’m frustrated by the obtuse in art. If I am to be moved, by spectacle or story, I prefer to meet the content face to face. I’d suggest to any visitor who hasn’t read each issue to find them – there’s something to be gained for everyone.
Illustration by Fabian Gonsalves. You can follow his work on instagram.com/fabskribbler
Read more from The Peacock: Issue 9 (2019) here: