13 January, 2009

Discovery of 2008: Siddharth Sinha, Silver Bear Winner at Berlin

As the screening of his film “Udedh Bun” at the 58th Berlin International Film Festival (7-17 February, 2008) got over, journalists from all over the world surrounded Siddharth Sinha, 30. His diploma film at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) had won him the prestigious Silver Bear, the second biggest award in the short film category. Soon after he was through with giving soundbites to media, a 76 years old German lady approached him with her autograph book. She thanked him and Siddharth thanked her back, it was his first autograph!

Udedh Bun, (Unravel), the short film of Siddharth has been traveling all over the world and it has already been screened at Pusan Internatinal Film Festival (South Korea 2-10 October, 2008), Molodist Kyiv International Film Festival, Ukrain (October 18-26, 2008), Edinburgh International Film Festival (18-29 June, 2008) and Dubai International Film Festival (December 11-18, 2008). Siddharth had been invited on the feature film jury of the Noordelijk Film Festival held in the city of Leeuwarden (Netherlands).

It was the kind of beginning of a career for an extremely humble and soft-spoken Siddharth that anyone can only dream of. The Berlin Silver Bear that he received has had recipients like Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and V. Shantaram earlier. Mrinal Sen had won the last Silver Bear at Berlin for India in 1980 for his film “Akaler Sandhane ( In Search of the Famine)”

Udedh Bun, started with a germ of an idea: an adolescent boy caught between his sexual awakening and an ill, bed-ridden mother. The film explores the dilemmas and fantasies of the boy.Siddharth came up with the idea about two years before he actually made the film. He has a unique way of developing a screenplay, rather than writing it down he prefers telling it to people. He narrated the story to almost everyone he knew and kept developing it into a screenplay.

A film without almost any dialogue or background score was a risky propositions, besides his friends told him that it might end up being a film lacking in pace. This is where noted filmmaker Mani Kual’s advice helped him plug in the loopholes. Kaul, himself an FTII alumnus, teaches filmmaking to the final year students of the institute and Siddharth took the opportunity to narrate his story to him.

Once ready on paper, the challenge was to transport the story and feel on to celluloid that involved finding right locations, actors and numerous props.

One property that made the making of the film a memorable experience for Siddharth was a cycle rickshaw that was used in only once sequence of the film. He hunted entire Pune for it but in vain. Finally, he had to bring one from Ahmednagar. He had to pull it himself with his assistant pushing it from behind for almost one and a half kilometres.

Once the shooting got over, on the edit table, Siddharth gave it a serious thought to put in background score since it had hardly any dialogues. He went ahead and almost hired a music composer, who advised him not to put any. Finally, Siddharth approached Mani Kaul again, who suggested that the film works better with the ambiance sound alone.

The three member international jury at Berlinale, highly appreciated Udedh Bun “for its modern narration” which according to the jury citation has a “sharp focus that relies on a harmony between images and sound rather than words”

The citation read out by the jury for Siddharth’s film praised the film highly; it reads “We are also sensitive to the new erotica brought to the traditional figure of the desired woman in the history of cinema.”

After a grand beginning of his career, Siddharth is currently working on his first feature film script. He doesn’t want to get into formula ridden world of Bollywood and wants to continue with his experimentation with the medium of cinema.

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