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Irfana Majumdar on her Locarno-bound film

Irfana Majumdar's film, an intimate portrait of a family, will premiere at the 74th Locarno Film Festival in August

A still from 'Shankar's Fairies'
A still from 'Shankar's Fairies'

Filmmaker Irfana Majumdar, whose feature Shankar's Fairies is set to have its world premiere at the upcoming Locarno Film Festival, on Monday said the movie stemmed from her mother Nita Kumar's childhood memories about Shankar, a house help at the centre of the story.

The film was shot in the ancestral house of Kumar, who also serves as a writer, producer, and production designer on Shankar's Fairies.

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Set in 1962 Lucknow in a newly independent and idealistic India that is still class-bound and exploitative, the film tells the story of Shankar, a village man with a gift for storytelling who raises a police officer's daughter while far away from his own family.

"My mother's memories constructed the film. In her memories, the beautiful mother and the dashing father are complimented by the overarching presence of Shankar. This village man cooks cakes and puddings and acts like a perfect butler. But he also tells wonderful stories. The villager's world is full of churails and witches, ghosts and fairies. He talks to the children now about the gods, now about djinns, now about sadhus, and always about fairies," Majumdar, who makes her Hindi feature debut with the film, told PTI.

"My own life was shaped by Shankar… I believe all children are influenced by stories, images and treasure the adults who share their imaginations with them," added Kumar.

Describing Shankar's Fairies as an "intimate" portrait of a family, the director said the film is also a commentary on the society and politics of India.

"At the beginning of 2016, my grandmother’s (nani’s) death and the sale of a hundred-year old house made us put together a script about my grandparents and their children: my nine-year-old mother and her four-year-old brother, my uncle.

"As the script was finalized, we unveiled a truth about India and ourselves. The journey of making the film is a personal journey into the heart of India," she added.

The film also marks the acting debut of Majumdar who stars in a prominent role in the film along with her casting director-husband Gaurav Saini, Jaihind Kumar, Shreeja Mishra, and Adwik Mathur.

At the 74th edition of the Locarno Film Festival, Shankar's Fairies will be screened in the competition section, Concorso Cineasti del Presente, which showcases 15 features (first and second) by emerging global talents.

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It will be presented on August 13 at the prestigious film festival held in person from 4-14 August in Locarno, Switzerland. The film gala had gone digital for its 2020 edition owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

Shankar's Fairies was part of the prestigious 2019 Film Bazaar's Work-In-Progress Lab and NFDC Film Bazaar Goes to Cannes at 2020 Marche Du Film.

The 15-movie line-up for Concorso Cineasti del presente section of the festival also includes Actual People, Agia Emi, Amansa tiafi, Niemand ist bei den Kalbern, L'Ete l'eternite, Il legionario and Wet Sand, among others.

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